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Babies are overrated

Kids get more fun to parent the older they get. That's something else "they" don't tell you about. But as the father of a 4 year old birthday boy tomorrow, I can tell you that babies are overrated. Babies get all the welcome-to-the-world joy and adoring looks and photos and celebratory gifts. But older children are where you really get a chance to shine--often unappreciated--as a parent.

Any idiot can change a diaper. Make a bottle. What have you. But The Mama and myself frequently agree that, looking back, newborn is most definitely not the place to be. It's actually the worst time as a parent because you feel like you should have this immediate connection to your child when really you're mostly parenting a lump. It poops. It pees. It eats again. You may get a smile once in awhile. It's boring.

Contrast that to the actual relationship--complicated and nuanced as it may be--that you have with a 4 year old. There are distinct wants and preferences and fears that you have no clue where they came from. Then there are the ones that you are 100% sure are part of your DNA testing required, this is your child because the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree. Chip off the old block.

The discussions get amazing. The ability to lie to you is amazing. The ability to do good and be helpful is amazing. The other day I spilled a bowl of Cheerios all over the living room floor--no children were involved, it was all me--and without me asking BOTH of my kids came over to help put cereal back in the bowl telling me it would be ok. It blows you away. Then again, my daughter--if she doesn't know the answer to a question you ask her--will simply make up something completely untrue on the spot and sell it like reality. Endearing but sneaky.

We've had some discussions and every once in awhile the two of us get baby fever and quietly wonder whether maybe we'd like another. We joke that if we'd met a decade earlier and lived in a bigger house we'd have 9 or 10. But then sanity comes back to us and we remember those nights of being up several times--ok, maybe she remembers those more than me! If that doesn't get you, the explosive poop will. Or the having to carry around expensive formula and toys and a burp cloth and....Sometimes we leave the house now without a diaper bag. It's a beautiful independence.

I know we have the teen years ahead of us. And we're not so happy about the way my daughter turns every "no" and correction into a crying fit. Does that ever go away? How about my son needing to learn that other people have personal space and are not made to be jumped on, kicked, or otherwise hit with sticks?

Having a 4 year old tomorrow mostly feels a million miles away from that newborn in the hospital. They really do grow up fast...that's one "they" will tell you that is actually true. How did we go from that small, helpless thing to a little boy who cleans up after himself, can teach his little sister, and who knows that otters like to eat fish?

It really is incredible and I'm totally going to take all the credit I deserve because I helped make him and have been there guiding him these last 4 years! Ok, ok...I'm so proud of what my little boy is becoming. He's smart, sensitive, funny, curious, (sometimes) considerate, fiercely independent, etc.. If I could have picked him out of a lineup, I probably would have.

Happy Birthday to my firstborn. And what a ride.