A Bittersweet End to the Baby and Toddler Years

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Many little things add up to one significant change in life — a bittersweet end to the baby and toddler years.

I remember sitting and watching my kids when they were younger and thinking, “What will I do when they aren’t babies anymore?” I dreaded the thought of it. I loved the baby and toddler years and wanted to keep them as long as possible.

Fast-forward a few years, and my youngest child, my daughter, somehow turned four this week. Her brother is five, turning six later this month. They are preschoolers and Kindergarteners. Their baby faces are nowhere to be found. All of a sudden, my babies looked like “big kids.” Their chubby cheeks, gummy smiles, and squishy legs are now distant memories. The slow days of playing at home, stroller walks, and post-nap snuggles are over.

mom holding baby's hand
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The bottles, bibs, burp cloths, sippy cups, sleepsacks, onesies, diapers, activity mats, bouncers, potty seats, and pull-ups have all gradually disappeared over the past few years and months. We put some items into storage, threw a few away, and passed on others to loved ones. The well-loved convertible crib used by both kids, the last remaining baby item in our home, was replaced with a “big girl” bed.

When we go to a restaurant (if we’re feeling ambitious), we don’t ask for a high chair or booster seat. The kids no longer fit in the top section of a grocery cart, so we don’t need to pack or haul the stroller wherever we go. 

While leaving behind and entering a new phase of life can be emotional, I haven’t experienced the heartache I used to anticipate. I’ve found quite the opposite. My husband and I frequently agree that this is our favorite stage of parenthood yet, thus, a bittersweet end.

We get to watch our kids experience things for the first time like we once did. We are learning how to read and write their names, taking out books from the library, and getting visits from the tooth fairy. The fun of going to birthday parties, trying new sports and activities, and making friends begins. On weekends, we go for hikes and walks, do puzzles, cook, read books, and have family game nights together.

We’ve had the privilege of watching our kids transform from squishy babies and toddlers into little people with unique interests and personalities (sometimes big ones). They share their view of the world with us and ask thought-provoking questions. They remind us to find delight in the simple things.

With the end of the baby and toddler years, life with them keeps getting better.

Through this transition, I’ve learned that each stage of parenthood brings a new set of joys. No stage lasts forever, and each one matters just as much as the one before it. 

I’ve also noticed that the older my kids get, the faster time seems to fly. So, I plan to fully embrace this season of life, fondly and with appreciation for the previous ones and excitement for those to come.

So goodbye to the baby and toddler years, and thanks for the memories and lessons.