It would be fair to say that there’s not a lot in common between my octogenarian grandmother and my three-year-old daughter – but they do share some similarities, mainly by virtue of how old they both are. Have you ever noticed how only the very old and the very young feel the need to tell you their exact age (“I’m eighty four!”, “I’m three–and–three–quarters!”, and the like)? Those at the extremes of the age spectrum can also get away with being extremely rude to other people, given that it can supposedly be explained away by the fact that they’re either past the point of no return or have yet to understand how they should behave. Never more so than with food: they have no qualms about being really fussy about what they will or won’t eat, and nor are they afraid of telling whoever’s cooked it that it’s a bit dry/cold/hot/not as good as the one someone else makes.
I was pondering all this the other day, thinking about what age is the best to be, EVER. I’m quite looking forward to being a pensioner, for all the reasons outlined above; however, whilst I’m sure there are many advantages to being a lairy old man, I reckon life really doesn’t get much better than when you’re aged three – especially if, as in the case with our three-year-old, your older brother is also your best mate.
We have three kids, the youngest of whom is frankly so smiley and easy we’re very glad we had her last, otherwise she’d have lulled us into a totally false sense of security before any siblings came on the scene. But, for all the sleepless nights and general chaos caused by our first two so far in their little lives, I wouldn’t change it for a moment. And now that they’re a little older, it’s amazing to see their friendship and closeness together grow stronger and stronger. Our three-year-old looks up to her big brother like he’s some kind of superhero, and he completely adores her.
Is it always this way, though? NO CHANCE.
Despite the fact that they’re best buddies, and we have all sorts of photos which perpetuate the fallacy that our home is a permanently harmonious one, the reality is often rather different.
We now live in a world where the impression we give of our own parenting to everyone else is an increasingly sanitised one. In the 1980s, the done thing was to take a few photos of your family, put them in an album, and leave it on the shelf somewhere to gather dust (my mum also kept my umbilical cord in a photo album, but I suspect that would never be classed as normal behaviour, no matter what the decade). Nowadays, everyone’s Facebooking and Instagramming pictures of their happy children, with nostalgic hues of colour around the borders of the photos to give them a feel of some idyllic snapshot of a bygone age. A quick scroll through my Facebook news feed reveals babies sleeping soundly, siblings sat eating ice cream together, and glorious family walks in the autumn sunshine. Everyone’s smiling, everyone’s happy, every parent seems to want to give you the impression that it’s all rose-tinted and glass-half-full where they are. All of which can make you feel completely inadequate when your children have begun the day by refusing to wear any underwear or threatening to flush their sibling’s favourite teddy down the toilet.
Young kids – or at least, the young kids who live in my house – regularly fight, bicker and cause all sorts of ridiculous arguments over something you or I would describe as completely inconsequential. Nevertheless, I’m left in no doubt that there are an awful lot of benefits to being little. That sweet spot between toddler age and going to school is a particularly wonderful time: no responsibilities, days filled with fun and, in the case of my middle one, a big brother who, most of the time at least, loves to keep her entertained.
What’s more, when it all gets a bit too much, it’s entirely acceptable for a three-year-old to go and have some time out in the laundry basket – something I think those of us who are a little older wouldn’t object to doing, either, given half the chance…