Back when I was a new mom, with only one very frustrating toddler, I used to have times when I just wished she was older. I could see the potential and imagine all the amazing things she would be doing as an older child...and I longed for that, rather than tantrums. But then I would also realize that when she was older I would probably miss all those days of her littleness, with the cute voice, tiny hugs and all.
So then I would muse, "Wouldn't it be interesting if every day when I woke up she was a different age? What would it be like if today she were ten, and tomorrow she were two, and then the next day she was 16? Then I could really appreciate all that is unique and amazing about each age, rather than constantly being frustrated with this current age."
Looking back, it was quite silly musing...the kind of thing a sleep-deprived doctoral student and new mom would think up.
But now that I have six kids, ranging in age from 10.5 years to 15 weeks in utero, I've come to realize that this musing has somewhat been fulfilled. I may not get to see the same child at varying ages from day to day, but I do get to experience the gift of different ages from day to day.
All in the same day, I can feel a baby move within me, get a chubby snuggle from a 20 month old, watch a four year old put together wooden train tracks, see a six year old mastering Legos and learning to add, notice drastic reading improvements in an eight year old, and watch a 10 year old play soccer, piano, or clarinet!
Sometimes it seems that the moms with only two kids look back on their children's infancy and toddlerhood longingly, loving to reminisce, recalling when their babies were babies. It might seem that having kids in different ages would make me less sentimental. Why miss my ten year old as a toddler when I have a toddler right now? Why miss the kindergarten age when I still have a kindergartener? Someone with kids of different ages couldn't possibly miss the different stages of childhood.
And yet, I find the opposite to be true! Being with my younger kids reminds me of my older kids and how quickly they are growing up. Being with my older kids reminds me of the potential within these little ones...and how quickly they are growing up.
Far from taking the uniqueness of each age for granted, I find that my appreciation for each age grows. When I am frustrated with the messes of a toddler, I can turn to literary conversations with my oldest. When I am frustrated with the attitude and unkind words of the oldest, I can find solace in a child with limited vocabulary but unlimited affection. When I start to feel like this child will never ever EVER be fully potty-trained, I can look to the four others that are and recognize that this frustration is temporary. When I tire of dealing with a child that only wants to wear camouflage clothing ("so he can sneak up on animals"), I can console myself by putting brown corduroy overalls on my little guy who doesn't yet know how to complain about his clothes!
What's more, I find that my kids add to the excitement of each age by appreciating each other. The joy of the older kids in witnessing baby's first steps or teaching a toddler some words sometimes seems to go beyond my own! Likewise, the baby of the moment shows an affection and almost amazement for the reading skills of the older kids and an appreciation of the fact that they can get snacks for him!
Witnessing their interaction, and appreciation for each other at different stages of childhood is areal gift. So also, the constant simultaneity of different ages in general reminds me not to take anything for granted, but to appreciate the gifts of each stage of childhood and to recognize that many of the difficulties of each age are fleeting. I am so grateful for this blessing of different ages at the same time!