Earlier this year, I was chasing my kids around at synagogue when a woman I didn’t really know too well stopped me to ask their ages. I told her that my oldest was 4 and my twin daughters had recently turned 1.
“Sounds like a handful,” she said with a laugh. “And guess what—it gets harder.”
While another parent might’ve been tempted to strangle her, I laughed in agreement and thanked her for her honestly.
The truth is, by then I’d already been thinking about how much easier things were when my daughters were younger and not nearly as mobile. While the first few months of raising them were a nonstop blur of sleepless nights, feeding sessions, and more diaper changes than I could possibly count, once we hit the 6-month stage, we sort of developed a flow. The girls slept through the night, ate less frequently, and didn’t require quite as many trips to the changing table.
Just as significantly, at 6 months, they were only just learning to crawl, which meant I didn’t have to worry about them destroying my house. That, however, was no longer the case by the time they started walking right around the time they turned 1.
And in many ways, the same holds true for my son. While it helps that he’s more independent these days (he can dress himself, clean up his own dishes, and tackle all manner of bathroom situations solo), with that independence often comes the conviction that he’s always, always right. And while my son was a stubborn child from the onset (he takes after his parents that way), that obstinacy has managed to increase exponentially year after year throughout toddlerhood.
I’ve often heard people tell other people—namely, new parents—that things get easier over time. In fact, it seems like “it gets easier” is meant to serve as some sort of consolation prize in the face of the overwhelming exhaustion that comes with caring for newborns. But while some aspects of raising children do get easier over time, I think it’s important to recognize that others get much, much harder. And I think it’s time we stopped sugar-coating that.
For example: Infants are difficult because they cry often and we don’t know why. Toddlers are difficult because they whine often, and while we have an opportunity in theory to know what’s troubling them, they’re not always so forthcoming with that information. Rather, most toddlers (or at least the ones I’ve encountered) would rather scream, hiss, moan, stomp their feet, or throw themselves against a wall than take a deep breath and use their words. Then, when they do use their words, they tend to be the obnoxious, rude, spiteful kind. So yes, it’s hard when you’re trying to soothe a baby who won’t stop crying. But comforting a pissed-off toddler isn’t easier, at least not in my experience.
The same holds true for dealing with teenagers and their hormone-ridden rants. My kids are still young, so I haven’t experienced this firsthand, but I’ve been warned by countless parents of teens that toddler rage is nothing compared to a distressed teenager’s fury. So while teenagers or pre-teens might be easier to care for in that they can shower by themselves, make their own food, and perhaps even get from place to place without parental assistance, the drama factor alone is enough to more than negate all of that.
So I refuse to tell new parents—or any parents really—that things get easier, because often, they just don’t. I think the kinder, more accurate thing to say is that things get different. Some aspects of parenting become more manageable over time, while new issues often creep up without warning. It’s all part of raising children, and as parents, we need to be prepared for whatever craziness inevitably comes our way.