When my babies were babies, I remember believing that each age they reached was my very favorite age. Despite the sleep issues and needs and diapers, the eventual tantrums and whines, the never-ending potty training—oh, the potty training!—the sibling fights, the mistakes made long after they should “know better,” the potty training accidents that were still happening into elementary years, despite the 80 million times I’ve had to say, “now what do you say??”—despite all of the nonsense that goes with helping a human become a functioning, non embarrassing, non-yelling-in-public, non-biting, non-whining, good, kind, respectful, yada yada yada human being, that it was all my favorite.

I learned recently that humans evolved to stand so they could have an advantage spotting a meal across a field or some horrible sharp-toothed creature that wanted to make them a meal. When this happened, their hips had to get smaller. The ones who could stand and see that vicious beast headed their way were more likely to survive the vicious beast and reproduce. Because of that narrowing of the hips, though, the important work of childbirth became a little more difficult.

At the zoo near us, in the giraffe house, they show a video my kids love of a giraffe being born. My kids ignore the majestic actual 20-foot-tall creatures that stand right before us, and instead they run to the TV to see if they will get to see the birth that happened years ago—the same birth they’ve watched 20 times this year. The in-real-life giraffes stand over us, licking the wall, watching my kids like we are the spectacle here, as they jump up and down and cheer at the screen, where a huge creature as tall as I am now pours out of its mom and practically hits the ground running. It’s been baking in there for 15 months—7 months longer than a human baby, and about the age many human babies start crawling.

They say because our ancestors evolved with those smaller hips, the human gestational period shortened. Instead of giving birth to babies who could just start crawling around and taking care of some of their own needs, our babies are helpless blobs who can’t even hold their own dang heads up. I remember when Wally Ben was born and the nurse threw that little blob up my way. In my exaggerated memory, he flopped about 3 feet in the air before landing in my clumsy arms. “You will never be more perfect than this,” I thought, as his floppy body soared toward me. “This is my very favorite baby age.”

IMG_0279So we start with these floppy blobs, and because they are so helpless—they can’t run around and find their own grass to eat like the giraffe in the video—we get to shape them from a more impressionable age. They need us, and because of that, we get the benefit of pushing them to be more how we want them to be.

Can you imagine if our babies came out crawling? As a toddler, Wally Ben had a blinking tic as a stress response when we moved. So when Vivvi was going to be born, we were concerned it would flare up again—but he went on with life as usual, despite our attention being suddenly and viciously divided from him. He loved her, and would interpret all of her cries for me. “She wants to sleep,” he’d say. “She wants her stuffy,” or “She wants me to have candy.”


But when Vivvi started crawling, and made her way toward his toys, the blinking came back full force.

When Wally Ben started crawling, I was 7 months into showing him who I wanted him to be. He didn’t crawl like most kids, on both knees. He got a foot involved, like a primate, or Spiderman when he needs to stay low. One of the first things he crawled toward was an electric outlet. He reached for the carbon monoxide detector that was plugged in, and I yelled, “No!” He crawled toward me in his little tripod way, arm raised, ready to strike.

I’m convinced that those first several months, where they make requests by crying—where we spend hours and hours jiggling babies, standing, rocking, changing diapers, burping, feeding, and if they are colicky, they still keep crying so we Internet research and end up bouncing them on exercise balls for 3 hours a night—all that time is so key for both them to be attached to us, and us to be attached to them. They have no choice but what we can give them. We could do anything else—leave for coffee, or a therapeutic Target run, or Cocomo to get the heck out of this house with this little floppy blob that requires so much of me—but we stay. We choose to stay. We choose them, because they are our favorite age right now, and we should enjoy it while it lasts.

We get attached to them during this time of their neediness. And then they start to grow away from us around the time they can crawl. They start to inhabit themselves, realize themselves as separate from us when they get mobile. They want to electrocute themselves if they want to, and you’d better not tell them no, woman!

And with each age and stage, difficult parenting things happen as they tear away into their own person. It’s a battle with two sides—we want to keep shaping them into who we want them to be, and they want to be more and more themselves. So we say no to more candy, or to sticking their fingers in electric sockets, and they cry. We say it’s time to try going to the bathroom again, and they pitch the biggest tantrum of their lives in the quiet library. We say it’s time to come inside from pickup football with neighbors to clean their rooms, and they yell that they “ARE COMING, OKAY????” I suspect parenting is this battle, and we are doing the best we can at letting go, cutting those strings of attachment, knowing which ones to cut—while they crawl, and walk, and run away from who-we-are-making-them-be, and toward who they are.

I believe every age stays our favorite, though, because “who they are” is ultimately the best, most interesting part of having children. At every age, with every pulling away, they reveal something about themselves that you know you did not put there.

The other day, Wally had a basketball game. I brought Vivvi with, and when we walked in the gym, coaches were giving pre-game instructions at center court. Our entrance caused every head in the gym to turn our way and brought on a full 10 seconds of silence before instruction continued. I can’t imagine why…

Green wigWally Ben is extremely responsible, so when he forgot to bring home his homework, it upset him. I told him to just offer to do his homework during break the next day. He came up with another plan—and wrote his own homework questions to answer and hand in. I am torn between this being crazy or amazing. I suspect that it is both.

HomeworkEvery age is my favorite because, with this pulling away, they become independent. They need me less, and need less of me. I was talking to a friend who has a baby who will not sleep. Since I had babies who didn’t sleep, I feel her pain. She said something like, “But you have a lot going on over there, too.” I thought, but did not say to spare her from more of her misery, that everything is better with sleep. I will take all of this age’s problems with 8 hours of sleep, thank you very much.

As kids become independent, they become people who you would want to hang out with. Who you GET to hang out with. The other day, I was ordering costumes for a play Vivvi is in, and made an inside joke in a conversation with a customer service representative, and the customer service representative had no idea what I was doing. I laughed alone and had no one to share it with. When she got home, I told her, and she collapsed with laughter half-way through reading what I’d done. As she laughed, I thought, “She is my daughter. Of course she is one of my favorite people in the world. But at 7, she is already one of my favorite friends.”

And she makes me laugh, too. I forgot what she wanted for Christmas, so decided to check a catalogue where I thought she’d been circling what she wanted a few weeks ago. Instead, I discovered this treasure.

LOL OMGThis age is also my favorite because kids start giving back to you the same or more than you are giving them. Instead of vampires of need, they sometimes can fill you up. Sometimes, as I’m tucking Wally in, he hugs me and pats my back. “You did good, Mom,” he says, “You did good.” And isn’t that exactly what we all need to hear at the end of every day?

They say “enjoy it while it lasts,” to parents, and it feels like someone is scraping your insides when you hear that while in the grocery store where your kids just slammed your heels with the cart while fighting with each other and pulling things off shelves and you suspect they are moments away from overturning everything and beating their chests while making wild yalps, looking for a vicious beast to tackle for dinner in the next aisle. Looking back, considering everything that has happened so far, I say, enjoy the best parts. There are more to come. The next age will definitely be your favorite.