Courtesy of Marie Southard Ospina

Please Stop Telling Me To Enjoy My Daughter "While I Can"

Ad failed to load

Babies can cause a tidal wave of nostalgia in parents of older children. This was certainly the case when my daughter Luna was born last December. It didn't take long before my teary-eyed mom began recounting tales from when my brother and I were small. Shortly thereafter, aunts and uncles sent Facebook messages that reaffirmed just how special raising a baby and toddler can be, as opposed to a "difficult" teen. In the nine months since, I've been told time and time again to enjoy them while they're young. "My favorite age," a random relative will announce to you, "is when they're 2."

According to friends, loved ones, and plenty of surveys, the best years of parenthood are those when our kids are little. In this first decade of life, children depend on us to clothe them and feed them and comfort them; we are needed, and cuddles abound. Then those kids start growing up, wanting to spend more time with their friends. They get into video games, or lacrosse, or hipster ax-throwing. They date, they move out, they go to college, and they eventually become independent (at least, most of the time). They don't need us in the same ways anymore — and, as a result, we can no longer "enjoy" them.

I know my daughter is only 9 months old, but this isn't a narrative that I want to buy into. Sure, Luna will only need me to this degree for a limited time. We will only be snuggled-up for so long. I just don't believe that having a child has to grow progressively less special as a result.

Ad failed to load
Courtesy of Marie Southard Ospina

A couple of months ago, my partner and I visited his uncle and younger cousins — two girls ages 17 and 14. Luna was only about five months old at the time, but I already couldn't believe how much more fun being with her was as compared to her first dozen weeks on the planet. She could smile and laugh. She was beginning to recognize faces and show sweet little signs of affection. She wasn't a screaming blob, with no capacity for emotion outside of anger or discomfort. She was starting to become a little girl.

"Honestly, it just keeps getting better and better," my uncle-in-law told me as I mentioned the comments I had received. "They start developing personalities, holding conversations. You learn from them just as much as they learn from you. It's just fantastic."

Ad failed to load

This was the first time anyone had said such a thing to me. "You're even enjoying the 'moody teen' phase?" I asked him.

He laughed, admitting that he was definitely enjoying their adolescence. Any moodiness came in waves, and he was grateful to be able to share with them the things he wish he'd known when he was that age. He was fascinated by how much his daughters changed year to year, and sometimes week to week. It was hard sometimes, he noted, but it was always interesting. It was always fun, regardless of temporary frustrations.

Ad failed to load

Sure, some kids and teens go through parent-hating rebellions, after all. As their personalities develop and they begin the process of creating an ego that exists separate from their parents, their beliefs can cause a schism between those of their parents. Once children can talk, they can talk back. They can fight and complain and be rude and cruel.

Thinking back to my own early adolescence, I remember being overwhelmed by the feeling that my parents didn't really want to be around me anymore.

This may be true, but thinking back to my own early adolescence, I remember being overwhelmed by the feeling that my parents didn't really want to be around me anymore. My mom and dad were divorced. The only thing they seemed to agree on was how much they missed me being a baby. When I spoke to my partner about this, he admitted to having experienced those same feelings around 10 years old. We both drifted from our parents around that time, possibly as a result.

Ad failed to load
Courtesy of Marie Southard Ospina

The thing is, I never want my daughter to feel as though she isn't enough. I don't want her to reach age 10 or 11 or 12, and suddenly feel as though her father and I are in mourning for the baby and toddler she once was. I don't want her to wonder whether we loved her more when she couldn't speak, or cultivate a fear of growing up and living her life in case we feel abandoned or neglected. I just want her to allow herself to be who she is.

In turn, I want her father and I to be able to enjoy every stage of her life. I'm actually looking forward to not having to do every little thing for her. I cannot wait until she starts telling me things that I do not know. Whether it's a story about her day at school, a shape she's spotted in the clouds, or what political candidate she's supporting, I'm looking forward to learning from her. I'm looking forward to getting to know the person we've made.

Ad failed to load
Courtesy of Marie Southard Ospina

Since that conversation with my uncle-in-law, I've discovered new things about my daughter, like the fact that she loves music. She shakes her head from side-to-side and wiggles her bottom whenever a tune comes on. She laughs herself to sleep at night. She can play peekaboo and reach out for us.

I don't doubt that some things will get more difficult when she gets older. As she moves out and away from us, it might be harder to hold her close, or to carry her in my arms, or find that we agree about everything. But I want her to grow, learn, and live, and I want her to know that my favorite age is whatever age I find her at.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

The Entire Family Can Enjoy These Movies & Shows Coming To Netflix In June

It's just one of those sad facts of life: every month, shows and movies vanish from Netflix, their varied excitements no longer at your fingertips. But luckily the streaming service is always prepared to fill that content void with lots of new things…
By Megan Walsh

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills