The ages of childhood

Ages of child

I started writing about being a dad when my daughter was age one. Now, she’s seven. Time to take a look at the various ages that have passed.

The Age of Baby

‘Baby’ is that heady time after your child is born, until roughly a year, when they start to walk. I wrote down some of my impressions of this period in my first post on being a dad.

Looking back now, what stands out is, on the one hand, the continual need for care. It’s a full-time job: feed baby, clean baby, change baby. You have to pay attention all the time. On the other hand, a baby is pretty easy to lug around. You can put them down anywhere, and they stay put — relatively.

The best part — for me — was seeing a tiny crumpled gnome turn into a fully aware baby. The magic is in the first smile, the first laugh, the first time they manage to eat something themselves. On the flip side, it’s scary when they get their first illness and can’t tell you what the heck is wrong. And the expected and unexpected wake-up calls during the night are grueling.

The Age of Toddler

What follows is the grand age from one year-old until they reach three years. Around one year, my daughter started to walk. Well, first she hobbled around on her knees, then started behind a baby walker. Then she started running behind the walker, and things escalated from there to full mobility.

The first words followed, and it became possible to have rudimentary discussions. After the full-service age of baby, I’d imagined a more capable toddler would be easier. I’d been told it was in-fact more complicated, and it turns out: it mostly is. Toddlers are mobile. I had to guard the stairs with a small fence, and cordoned off the kitchen the same way, to protect my toddler from the oven, and the cats’ bowls from her.

This age was sometimes hard; I remember the vomiting-at-the-supermarket incident markedly, as well as the fall-on-face-and-make-daddy-worry-about-a-broken-nose incident. Of course, it had its great heights too. You can talk with the tiny person you created! They start doing funny things. And they turn from a baby into a tiny person, who has wants and a personality.

The Age of Preschool

Age three marked a large turning point in my dad-ness. It was the age that my daughter stopped sleeping during the day. For me, that was a big deal. You see, my daughter is very much not able to entertain herself. She won’t sit in a corner by herself, playing with her toys. Not ever. She wants to be entertained, and she’s wanted that at age three too. So, that break around lunchtime was an oasis of peace in my otherwise busy day. When that went away…

On the other hand, there was now a little girl where there used to be a toddler. She talked, she walked, and she could climb. So, that year, we went to the indoor playground a lot. It became a weekly ritual, with us playing in the jungle gym, then eating a Slush Puppy, and then we’d go home and do some grocery shopping.

The Age of School

My daughter’s early days at school coincided with the onset of the Covid pandemic. That complicated our lives, to say the least. However, we’re now three years down the line, and life has returned mostly back to normal. And just in time. The two years of pandemic lockdowns were hard, but my daughter was still mostly in the play-and-get-used-to-school phase.

In that time, my daughter’s gone from the occasional play date to having a set of friends. She’s learning how to read and write, and she has a sense of humor. She just got her swimming diploma, and she’s having circus lessons where she spends her time walking on a ball roughly her own size, and riding around on a unicycle. It’s both awe-inspiring and heart-attack-inducing. She’s no longer a baby, or a toddler, or a pre-schooler. She’s a young girl, quickly moving towards her teens.

The verdict

Everybody will experience these things in their own way. Every person is different, meaning every parent is different, and every child is different. Some parents will love the tiny cute baby, while others prefer the mobile-but-controllable pre-schooler.

I’ve found that I’ve come to appreciate parenthood more as my daughter ages. I loved all the ages described above, but with each new milestone my daughter became more a person, and less a job. Changing diapers was never a problem, but I’m glad I no longer have to do it. I like that I can make plans with my daughter. That she can voice opinions, or tell us about things that ail her.

I don’t know what the future brings, and maybe puberty will break this trend, but for now, the older my daughter gets, the more I’m enjoying parenthood.

Martin Stellinga Written by:

I'm a science fiction and fantasy author/blogger from the Netherlands