THE STAGES OF CHILDHOOD

Before I had children, it never occurred to me that some bits would be better than others. I’m not sure what I was expecting motherhood to be. When I was pregnant, it was difficult to see beyond the birth. I assumed that I would spend my days in the appealing little nursery that we had lovingly decorated, cooing over my child and that the years would pass playing peekaboo and building interesting structures out of lego.

The reality, however, is somewhat different to the dream. I am brave enough to admit that I have enjoyed some stages more than others. In fact, I really struggled with some bits. And I think it’s OK to ‘fess up to that because I’m sure, if they’re honest, most people would admit that child raising is not much fun for most of the time.

For me the baby bit was fine. I enjoyed my time incarcerated in that post birth bubble when the rest of the world goes into soft focus. All that was important was when the baby last ate and what was in its nappy. Yes I was exhausted, looked like death and hadn’t a polite word for anyone but me and the baby were happy in our world.

Next came my own personal nemesis – preschool. This is the period when your life is completely taken over by the tiny person at your side. There is not a minute when they don’t need something or want something or need rescuing from something. I don’t have the patience for hour upon hour of dressing up games. I found myself finishing jigsaws myself just to keep my brain awake and was bored to the point of distraction.

By the time they went to primary school, things were beginning to look up. With external influences to contend with, life became more challenging and my babies started to develop interests that were not a direct result of my encouragement. And I finally got some time to myself which was more welcome than a chocolate egg at the end of Lent.

And now we have just embarked on teenagedom and I’m as happy as a pig in muck. My children and I can have discussions about abstract issues. They have views that are different to mine and are often, although not always, logically reasoned. They are witty, sometimes downright hilarious. And the issues that arise are complicated and need careful consideration because the consequences are suddenly so much more serious.

Today the secondary school had a training day and my elder two and I took the train to the big city with a view to spending money on unnecessary frivolities. I had also promised to buy my eldest her first pair of heels for her best friend’s 13th birthday party – a rite of passage if ever there were one.

The trip was a huge success. We bought lots of pretty things and along the way we laughed together, or more often they laughed at me. I was so proud to be with them as they tripped up the street joking with each other without a care in the world. And I thought to myself – this is it. This is why I spent all those years doing playgroup duty and making bugs out of play doh. This is what I have been waiting for. To see my beautiful girls on the cusp of their own journey through life.

I know that teenagers are not all plain sailing and I am ready to meet the storms that will inevitably come. But I’m not ashamed to say that this stage of childhood has to be my favourite so far. And long may it continue.

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