What do I mean by the baby bubble? Think of it as the first few years of a child’s life. The pre-school days. That period in your life where you live in a cocoon of damp curls, sticky little hands and wooden toys. The relentless, but joyful, time when your children look to you for their every need.
It’s incredibly hard work. Everything feels very intense and it’s possible to love it and hate it the same breath. It’s tempting to wish it away.
My children are now 8 and 6. I have well and truly left the baby bubble. I feel nostalgic and get a bit emotional when I see little babies. It’s not because I want another one. I don’t. It’s a feeling of wistfulness. A longing to go back in time and implore my younger self to make the most of it.
Picture the scene: you’re pushing your newborn around in a pram round the supermarket, a cross toddler attached like a limpet to your leg. You’ve already had a full day of it and it’s only 9am. An old lady will stop you: she’ll probably coo over your baby and tell you how quickly time will fly by. You’ll probably give a rigid grin and nod in agreement, whilst thinking time can fly just as quickly as it likes, thank you very much.
But you know what? She’s right. Time does fly and before you know it your children will be growing like weeds, criticising your parking skills and making endless jokes about farting.
The bubble doesn’t pop suddenly overnight. It slowly deflates.
The change really comes when all your children are at school. When your children are at nursery or pre-school you’ve still got one foot in the baby camp. Once they’re at school all day you jump headfirst into a whole new stage of childhood.
Life gets much easier in some ways. You don’t have to cart round nappies or worry about the bedtime routine. Tantrums mostly get fewer and further in between. But in other ways it gets harder. Your children enter a whole new world. Your family is still at the centre of it, but it’s part of a larger, more confusing map. There are a whole new set of baffling hurdles to jump over, which can leave you longing for rhyme time and babyccinos.
Other people’s children. They always mixed with them at baby groups and nursery, but now your children spend six hours a day with them. You don’t get to cherry pick their friends for them anymore. At playgroup, you’ll probably try to keep them away from certain children. The one who always hits others over the head with a saucepan in the play kitchen. Once they get to school, they make their own decisions. And you might not like them. They might decide to be best friends with the saucepan child. It’s their choice.
They pick things up. When your children are little the knowledge and mannerisms they pick up come mainly from you and your family. As they get older, it changes – your little bubble has burst. This is an important part of growing up and it can be funny and wonderful. It can also be annoying and worrying. Inevitably they’ll see things you desperately wish they didn’t have to see. The baby years can make you a bit of unwitting control freak. Letting go can be tough.
It’s all part of growing up. But it’s hard. You feel desperately proud of them, but also like you want to gather them back into that cocoon and never let them out. It’s innocence versus experience. And my goodness I miss the innocence sometimes.
When my children are teenagers I’m sure I’ll look back and think about how easy the middle years were. And that’s the point, isn’t it? Parenting is a journey that never stops. Bringing up a child is like helping them build a boat for life. Every day you add a little more. Eventually you’ll help them launch off and you hope you’ve done enough to make their little vessel seaworthy.
I’m not trying to say the baby years aren’t hard. I know they are. Just remember that while the baby bubble might feel suffocating at times, it’s also glorious. Don’t wish it away.