My youngest daughter is 5 years old. Technically she is the baby of the family in that she is the youngest. But when your baby’s not a baby anymore, and a 5 years old child’s behaviour becomes confusing, you know they’re growing up.
We knew she would be the last child before she was even born and not once have we considered changing our minds. I was done.
A lot of people tend to treat their last born child as the baby, no matter how old they are. The youngest child is often ‘cut more slack’, or allowed to get away with behaviour that their older siblings probably wouldn’t have. But this works both ways.
I find that I tend to focus a lot of my parenting time on my eldest who is now 7 years old. Sometimes it’s because of her nature, she just ‘needs me more‘. But it’s mainly because whilst she is the elder of the two, however old she is, that is how many years I have been a mother too.
All Her First Milestones Are Mine Too
What do I mean by that? Well it’s simple really. Here are a few examples:
- That moment when she learnt to swim on her own, that was the first time a child of mine learnt to swim.
- Her first day of school is also my first day as a mum of a child at school.
- The first time she got 10/10 on a spelling test was also the first time the homework effort I had put in, paid off.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not owning her victories. I’m owning MINE as the mother.
However, when it comes to my younger daughter, well, I’ve done it all before. That’s not to say that I am not immensely proud of her achievements, and it doesn’t mean I don’t celebrate her milestones. But they aren’t MY firsts.
On The Flip Side
The flip side of this is things like, my elder daughter still can’t tie her shoelaces, but her younger sister can. I still pack my elder child’s school bag, but I trust that my younger daughter does it properly herself. [I know she sneaks her toys to school in it, but we both pretend I don’t.] The point is that she can do it, where as my eldest is used to me just doing it for her.
The Bittersweet Milestones
I’ve written before about the fact that when the youngest child achieves a milestone, you don’t even realise that it’s your last time to be needed by your children to help with that task. For example,
- The moment that my youngest can buckled herself into her car seat herself and closed the car door. Well, that was the last time I was truly needed to do that chore.
- Or the moment she can play in the bath without you and you can sit in peace for 10 minutes whilst they play. You long for that moment at some point in the parenting journey. Then when it comes, you realise that in that moment, they can bath themself. Without you.
I guarantee you, you won’t be ready. You won’t be ready to not be needed. And that never stops. There will always be one more thing they don’t need you for. And that’s okay, because it means we’re doing our job. Our job of raising humans, and preparing them for the world.
When Your Baby Isn’t A Baby Anymore … and she can’t deal!
Recently I have noticed my 5 year old has been putting on that annoying baby voice. I hate that. Even when they were babies, I never spoke to them like that. I always spoke to them as me, an adult. Not me pretending I can’t speak. I just don’t get that. Anyway …
There has been baby talk, and there is pretend crying when something doesn’t go her way. There’s even that fake coy look to try to get what she wants, and fake sulking. [Give me strength!]
I have put this 5 year old behaviour down to the fact that she is struggling to adjust to not being the baby anymore. She is 5 & 1/2 years old. She is a strong, intelligent, confident, fashionable and stylish little girl. She is brave and curious, defiant and loveable. She is not a baby anymore, she’s a big girl.
Is It Because of Our Expectations?
I expect her to pick up her own clothes and make her own bed and help out with other chores. There is no more of daddy carrying her around when she gets tired. And her sleep needs match her older sisters now too so there is no need to make special arrangements for her sleeping. She eats what we all eat, and she goes where we go. I also expect her to put in just as much effort with her homework as her sister does.
She gets ridiculously frustrated on the rare occasion when there is a facility or ride of game with a height or age limit that excludes her.
She is ready to be a big girl. We are ready for her to not be a baby anymore.
In the meantime, I will have to gently discourage this baby talk. It’s not cute, and it’s not funny, and the coyness might work on daddy, in the short term, but it certainly doesn’t work on me.
Am I ready for her to ‘grow up’.
Absolutely! When I was in the thick of things with two little girls under the age of 4, both mobile, both needy, both running me ragged, I used to look at parents of older kids, in primary-school, or high-school and thing to myself, “What on earth do they do all day? Their kids don’t need them anymore, they must have so much free time.”
But that is certainly not the case. They might need us less in a ‘hands on’ sort of way, but their emotional and educational needs, and the need to teach them about the world and how to behave in it, takes the place of changing nappies, preparing bottles, lugging pushchairs and searching for pacifiers.
It’s all relevant. You can’t make time stand still, and you can’t get it back either. Just embrace the change and move forward.
My friend I hear you. Although the gap between my baby and my eldest is nearly 5 years, I feel the same. I’m totally not ready for my baby to grow up. Although I still do most things for my eldest one, step by step.