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Good Reasons Not To Be Sad the Baby Years Are Over

Photograph by Getty Images/Cultura RF

Despite how exhausting the baby and toddler years are—and they sure are exhausting—every mom feels that pit in her stomach when she realizes that those years really are behind her forever. No more adorable mispronunciations; no more squishy toddler toes; no more training wheels.

I feel it when I pass by Gymboree at the mall and have no reason to pop inside. I feel it when I mistake the girls' socks for mine. I feel it when I notice the snuggles getting fewer and farther between, and the eye rolling getting more frequent.

But now that I've officially settled into the elementary stage (my girls are in 1st and 2nd grades), I have to say there are a lot of things that are just plain awesome about the kids getting older. So for any mamas out there who are getting wistful or downright depressed about leaving the baby years behind, here is a little sweet to go with your bitter. And for those moms in the trenches who are having trouble seeing even the faintest glimmer of light at the end of the tantrum tunnel, here is some encouragement that things really do get easier.

1) The books, TV shows and games get WAY better. WAY, WAY better.

"Who do we call when we don't know the way to go?"
"WOW, WOW everybody!"
"Wonder pets, wonder pets, we're on our way!"
"Yoooooooour backyard friends, the Backyardigans."

The shows were cute at first. But after several years spent living in a Nick and Disney Jr. induced fog, able to recite all 7468 episodes of Dora the Explorer, and sing every song from Sofia the First, I was pretty much ready to jump off a cliff. Thankfully we've moved on to some shows featuring real live people.

Our current favorites are re-runs of The Brady Bunch and Full House. Bob Saget might not be a whole lot more tolerable than the characters from Little Einsteins, but checking out the fashion, home décor, and hairstyles on the old shows is super fun.

You know those toddler board games where you pick a card that has a "3" on it and then, wait for it... you move your piece three spaces? Those are replaced by games that require actual strategic thinking. You might even lose without doing so on purpose.

While I definitely got a little misty-eyed when I packed up all of our board books, but reading to the kids becomes a lot more interesting when the books have suspenseful plots that don't involve guessing where a belly button might be hiding.

2) You'll save a ton of money on batteries.

There was a point when we were probably spending $50 a month just to power all of the swinging, beeping, talking, music-playing, and motoring mayhem that went on at our house. Now a Costco size package of AAs lasts us for years.

3) Stuff like this:

4) Their clothing lasts longer.

I was shocked when I went through my daughters' clothes and shoes from last year and realized that a lot of things still fit! For the first time since they've been born, I actually had to throw away a pair of sneakers because they were completely worn through before they were outgrown. It's definitely a money and time-saver not having to buy a new wardrobe every season.

5) The kids can actually help you around the house.

It's super cute when toddlers want to help you bake or vacuum or fold laundry. But it's also not helpful. At all. Watching my girls make their beds neatly, accurately measure a cup of flour without half of it ending up on the floor, and sort a huge laundry basket full of socks fills me with sheer joy.

6) You can go to better restaurants.

We're by no means ready for any fine dining establishments yet, but going out to eat as a family no longer means seeking out the back corner table at Chili's at 4:30 pm. My girls can be trusted not to throw anything, climb under the table, or unleash primal screams for no reason, and my husband and I actually have time to chew and swallow our food at a normal pace.

7) Discipline is a lot easier.

I remember the days when my three-year-old daughter would taunt me from her timeout spot as she sang her favorite made-up song: "Timeout is fun…I love timeout…Lalalalalalala." Now all I have to do is subtly suggest that a certain someone might have to miss a certain birthday party if she doesn't straighten up, and she's instantly transformed into a perfectly well-behaved angel.

8) You'll use your brain again.

If for no other reason than to help the kids with their Common Core math homework.

9) You don't need to wipe anyone's butt except your own.

No further explanation needed.

10) You can finally see your hard work paying off.

Those countless times you sang the ABCs, pointed out colors, and walked laps around the mall tossing cheerios onto the stroller tray to buy yourself a few moments of peace…

The nights you rocked them to sleep while crying tears of exhaustion (and then did it again when they woke up 45 minutes later)…

Those times you felt like a broken record reminding them to say "please" and "thank you," and wondering if it would ever sink in…

The 50 parenting books you read that seemed to work wonders for everyone but you…

The times you chastised yourself for giving up on breastfeeding, or letting them watch too much TV, or not teaching baby signs, or buying all your baby food, or bathing them with soap you later found out killed lab rats (whatever—it said it was all natural)…

You start to realize that your kids are okay anyway. They're actually pretty great. And thankfully they don't even remember that time you completely snapped and kicked their favorite toy across the room because it wouldn't stop talking.

One day you'll look at them, and despite feeling wistful that the chubby cheeks and Robeez are gone, and you'll feel amazed at the people that are beginning to emerge. They will make jokes that are actually funny. They will say kind things when they don't know you're listening. They will begin to evolve into the people they're going to be—people with unique personalities, likes and dislikes, compassion, talents and gifts.

I know there may be difficult years ahead (or so I'm told by the moms of teens), but I'm trying to enjoy each phase as it comes, and to feel thankful for the videos, photos and Rubbermaid bins that allow me to hold on to the ones that have passed.

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