This month, my family, like many other families across Canada, will partake in our annual Thanksgiving meal.
But before we fall into a gravy-induced coma, we’ll take a few minutes to go around the table and share what we’re thankful for this year. Our 11-year-old will probably give thanks for the fact that I upgraded our home WiFi so she can stream music videos in her bedroom instead of having to go downstairs. And our eight-year-old will express gratitude for the 55 stuffed animals she’s secured over the past 12 months (even though that probably represents a 40 percent drop over the previous year). As for me, although I might not mention it at the table, I feel increasingly thankful that my kids have gotten a little older.
Don’t get me wrong. The baby and toddler stages are full of amazing moments: first words, first steps, first sleepover at Grandma’s house so the parents can go for dinner at a non-chain restaurant. But it’s also rewarding to graduate to the next stage of parenting—the stage that doesn’t include dirty diapers, lost soothers and Caillou.
If you’re in the sleep-deprived trenches of early parenthood, I know it’s tough. But it ends. Here are 10 things I’m thankful for now that my kids are just a wee bit older.
1. I’m thankful the word “meconium”—referring to that goopy black tar-like substance that emerges from your newborn’s bottom for the first few days after birth—is not longer a necessary part of my vocabulary. I feel like prenatal classes don’t give first-time parents enough warning that our babies will be secreting a driveway-sealing substance for their first 72 hours of life.
2. I’m thankful my wife is no longer pregnant or trying to get pregnant, so she can be the one to clean out the kitty litter.
3. I’m thankful we no longer have to leave dinner parties at 7 p.m. You get used to it, but it’s pretty awkward when you have to respond to an invitation with, “Yes, we can do dinner on Saturday. But can you make sure we’re eating dinner by 5:45 p.m. and having dessert by 6:30 p.m.? We’re trying to keep our six-month-old on a schedule.” (That’s most often followed by, “Hello? Hello?... Honey, I think they hung up on me again.”)
4. I’m thankful our kids are out of car seats. The bucket seats are crazy heavy, the convertible seats have those impossibly twisted straps, and don’t even think about taking either of them out to clean underneath, unless you want to pay a car seat technician another $50 for installation.
5. I’m thankful our kids don’t use sippy cups anymore. Sure, they prevent spills, but as a conservative estimate, I would say we had about 250 sippy-cup valves go missing over the years. And even when you do find one, you can spend hours cleaning it, and it will still smell like curdled milk.
6. I’m thankful we no longer have to carry a diaper bag everywhere we go. The three most common phrases we uttered during this stage of our lives were, “Did you remember the diaper bag? Where is the diaper bag?” and, most frequently, “I forgot the diaper bag.”
7. I’m thankful we don’t have talking toys in our house anymore. Ever notice how when its batteries start to die, a toy starts to talk in a low, demonic voice as though it’s possessed by the Devil? (For the record, this doesn’t include any version of the talking Elmo doll, which is the spawn of Satan even with a fresh battery.)
8. I’m thankful our kids no longer watch toddler cartoons. While these shows were a reliable babysitter (don’t judge), their theme songs got stuck in my head for days at a time. I still sometimes find myself with an endless loop of “Toopy Toopy, Binoo Binoo!” playing in my mind when I’m caught in traffic.
9. I’m thankful we no longer have to read Goodnight Moon on a nightly basis. Sure, it’s a classic, but the idea that someone would bid good night to a comb and a bowl full of mush is just ridiculous.
10. Finally, I’m thankful our kids are more and more independent. They no longer need us to chop up their food or catch them when they come down the playground slide. They don’t ask for piggyback rides, and they can ride bikes without us holding on to them. They never want to hold our hands, and our 11-year-old rarely wants to be seen with us in public.
On second thought, I’m thankful for Kleenex, because I’m suddenly getting very nostalgic thinking about those golden years when our kids really needed us every step of the way.
A version of this article appeared in the October 2015 issue with the headline, "Babies are hard," p. 60.