Not my Favorite Age

Park Bench Intimacy

During the intimate discussions fostered by dint of sharing space on a park bench, moms sometimes talk about something taboo: age preference. That is to say that all parents, if asked, can point to a specific age in children that they find more comfortable. That's not to say they don't love their children, of course not, it just points to the individuality of the makeup of a parent.

Give and Take

Parents are supposed to have unconditional love for their children, but loving children and feeling confident with a child's age range are not synonymous. Some parents prefer the age at which children are able to speak and reason. For these parents, infancy is bearable, but not preferable. They like the give and take they get with older children. Such parents may have trouble expressing such a preference, since they fear they will be seen as somehow cold or unloving, when nothing could be further from the truth.

Other parents are head over heels in love with newborns. They may like the predictability of the neurological responses of just born infants as well as their newness and the miraculous nature of human life. It is, however, just as valid for parents to find their baby's infancy a rough patch on the way to the parent/child relationship. These moms or dads wait with eagerness for the time their baby will be less a blob-like amoeba and more of a person.

If you watch parents with their children, it is easy to see which parents feel comfortable and which are a bit awkward. It's easy to make the assumption that the parent who seems graceless is inexperienced. But it makes more sense to realize that some ages will be more challenging to certain parents than are others. That means that at times, all parents will find themselves caught short of skills in dealing with a particular age. If a parent has more than one child, this preference for a specific age becomes clearer as experience is gained.

Many parents find the teen years to be the most difficult of all. These teen-dreading moms and dads don't seem to be able to find their way to polite dialogue with their children and they may look back with fondness to a time when their child was more pliant and reasonable. It feels to such parents as if every sentence spoken has the potential to set off a landmine of emotion in their teenaged child. Yet, other parents seem to have the knack: an uncanny knowledge of how to speak to teens.

The Terrible Twos is seen by lots of parents as an exhausting time in their parenting lives, while at the opposite spectrum there are parents who find continual amusement in their two year old child's insistence on saying no. They admire his tenacity and have compassion for his struggle to be an independent soul. Meantime, other parents just want a vacation.

The real question is how such age preference affects our children's development. Because of the taboo nature of the subject, no studies have yet been done on this topic. Maybe that's a good thing: do parents really need any more guilt about their parenting styles?