Rainy season is very nearly upon us here in the Pacific Northwest, and, as a result, I’m feeling curmudgeonly. Don’t worry, it’s not a permanent affliction, but it does have me wondering whether there might be…let’s say “more informative” ways of labeling the ages and stages of development that most kids experience en route to adulthood.
Here’s what I wish the parenting books had as chapter headings:
- 0 – 3 months: Leaky Blob Oh, the magic of your newborn little boy or girl is sure to captivate you during this stage. Why do sleeping newborns breathe like bulldogs with head colds? Was that a smile or just gas? Where is the baby poop that I can smell but not see? Although your little bundle of joy won’t be able to provide helpful feedback in response to any of these questions, you can take solace in the fact that, like your child, you will be leaking unpredictably from a variety of orifices!
- 3 – 6 months: Frustrated Blob Now that your little one can smile, attempt to grab things, and see well enough to process basic emotional information, it’s time to prepare for the emotional roller coaster that is the second three months! If this is your first child, the sleep deprivation will have really set in, making it nigh-impossible for you to see the humor in the situation when your infant pulls his or her own hair hard enough to elicit tears. Fortunately, the small fry won’t be the only one crying! Your baby’s ongoing struggles with the complexities of burping and farting are bound to make you shed a few tears of your own.
- 6 – 12 months – Food-Stained, Frustrated Blob Your little one is sitting up, working on crawling, trying solid food, and maybe even taking a first few steps or saying the occasional semi-intelligible word! Watch in amazement as your mini-me either smears food all over herself, or shuns food entirely for fear that anything with any texture come within a 12 inch radius of his body! Gasp in astonishment as your kid screams the infant equivalent of profanity because you won’t hand over your expensive smartphone for use as a teether! Feel the transformation from astonishment to outright horror when you realize just how much more babyproofing you’ll need to do as a result of your child’s newfound mobility!
- 12 – 18 months: Adorable Destruct-O-Bot Congratulations! You and your infant survived the first year! But wait, don’t get comfortable. Now that your child can probably move about your home in a manner that leaves his or her hands free, you’re in for a lengthy session of every new parent’s favorite game: Keeping your toddler from killing herself and destroying everything you own! And remember, you’ll be playing this game on the “expert” setting from the beginning, so bring your coffee…just don’t leave that mug anywhere near the edge of any counter. In fact, you might be better off drinking lukewarm coffee from a plastic bag! Just kidding – that’s a choking hazard AND you might be exposing yourself (and any potential future offspring) to BPA!
- 18 months – 2 years: Destruct-O-Bot 2.0 – Now With More Incoherent Muttering. Your delightful little child’s ability to understand language far outpaces her ability to produce understandable words…but that won’t stop her from trying! Stock up the liquor cabinets for this phase, you’ll need to unwind after a long day of being screamed at by a toddler because you couldn’t understand that his emphatic, repetitive grunting off the phrase, “PICKPO! ROOCE!” meant that he wanted you to bring the cat to the park and make it go down the slide. Conveniently, this communication breakdown coincides with the onset of major separation anxiety, so you know those enraged screams will always be directed right into your ear.
- 2 – 3 years: Not As Bad As You Expected You guys really managed expectations effectively with that “terrible twos” phrase that’s been around forever. I mean, sure, there’s the occasional tantrum because a banana is sliced into disks instead of left whole, but, really, this year isn’t too bad.
- 3 – 4.5 years: Now You Just Live With a Jerk Who’s got two thumbs, talks incessantly, asks the same “why” question again and again and again, tests boundaries for the sake of seeing which things elicit the maximum emotional response from you, demands constant explanations of your every request, and then doesn’t listen when you provide said explanations? Your kid! Good luck!
- 4.5 to 5 years: Brief Respite It’s…my God, it’s full of stars!
- 5 to 7 years: Mini-Teenagers “Ugh, Mooooom. Fiiiiiiiine. Ugh.” with a side of the same clique forming, other kid excluding social dynamics that you thought you could avoid at least until middle school.
- 7 to 12 years: Questionable Music Choices Think back to your musical tastes in the pre-teen years. Maybe you’re the one in a million person who was into James Brown and Elvis Costello and that fresh indie band that is going to be really big next year, but, personally, I bought Milli Vanilli on vinyl (true story).
- 13 to 18 years: Know-It-Alls Don’t bother suggesting anything to your children during this time period regarding their appearance, style of dress, choice of friends or boyfriends, participation or failure to participate in activities, performance in school and its ramifications for employability later in life, etc. They’ve got this, you’ve clearly just forgotten what it was like to be young. If possible, spend 5 years talking about the weather. Oh, shoot, climate change, right.
- 18 to 22 years: Bad Decisions Congrats! Your kid might have left the nest, sort of! That’s good news, right? What’s that, you say? The brain’s prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for facilitating decision making, is not fully formed or functional until roughly age 25? And now your kid has limited supervision? And maybe can buy alcohol? Well…you survived 3 to 4.5, right?
- 22 to 25 years: Means well, Interviews Poorly It’s okay, mama, I’m sure that the job fell through because of the economy, and not because your kid wore torn jeans to a business interview. Here, let me just refill your wine glass…
Don’t get me wrong, I love my littles, but some days…well. Yeah. You know.
Disagree with me? Want to suggest refinements? Just need a mum friend who understands life with a 3.5-year-old? Let me know in the comments!