“I feel like I’ve been let out of jail.” I can’t even count how many times I’ve said this to JB lately. It’s not quite the right sentiment, but it’s as close as I can get: I feel like the world has opened up lately. After over five years of parenting very young children, everything has just sort of . . . widened. Jesus, there’s air in here now.

I don’t mean to imply that six and three are the cakewalk ages or that we don’t have plenty of challenges ahead, but it’s only now that we have a little distance beyond the baby years that I am really understanding just how stifling and challenging that was. In all the obvious ways, but also in all the million little daily compromises that have to happen when you’re caring for little kids. How incredibly difficult it was on our marriage to have to shelve most of the things we liked to do together, to negotiate over who got some time to ourselves, to deal with all the inevitable resentments and pent-up frustrations and feelings of being trapped and occasional helpless thoughts of WHY DID WE DO THIS WHYYYYYY.

This summer has opened all kinds of doors for us, particularly in our travels together as a family, but also just in the relative ease of our day to day lives. It is not exactly a peaceful full-body massage accompanied by a soothing Enya soundtrack to be around our kids these days, but my god, it is NOTHING like it used to be.

Duh, right? Babies are, like, hard and stuff. I don’t know why I keep marveling over such an obvious sentiment, but every time we do something that used to be exhausting or impossible, I think about how lucky we are to have made it through those tough years. This is the good stuff right now. I could stay here for a long, long time.

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M.A.
M.A.
11 years ago

Hear, hear. This is when great parenting pays off. Dip your toes in the river, read a book, and enjoy. You and JB have earned it.

Charmedone17
11 years ago

Ahhh this post gives me hope!!! I am in throes of babyhood again after a six year hiatus and man is it so hard…not that I knew it wouldn’t be but you do forget!!! Enjoy the good days ahead!

Amanda
11 years ago

I have a 6 and 4 year old, and totally agree. Also, you look so very happy hanging out by the river.

(P.S. Your river is waaaay better than my river!)

Ginger
11 years ago

You mean it gets easier? Like, really, truly easier? Because in the throes of 22 months, I find it almost impossible to imagine it ever, EVER being easier than ZOMG THIS IS EXHAUSTING all the time. I’m clinging with dear life to your claim that it lightens up eventually. Even a little.

Jessica
Jessica
11 years ago

I only have one child right now, but this is strong motivation to have the 2nd NOW. That way I don’t get used to the ease of an older child and slammed when I have another!

Erica
11 years ago

Thanks I needed this.

Tessie
Tessie
11 years ago

My daughter just turned 5, and with every birthday I am SHOCKED at how much more I like each older age, and how much happier I am in general now, than I was in the baby/toddler stage.

cagey
11 years ago

I’m living this post right now. My daughter just turned 4 and my son is 5.5. This has been an AMAZING summer for us, probably because they are actual PEOPLE now who no longer crap their pants or need naps. How freeing that has been!

Melissa
Melissa
11 years ago

My three boys are 11, 8 and 6 and the last two summers have been amazing! I work in the school district so I get the summers off with them and we just play! We go swimming, bowling and to summer movies! So much fun and it is so much easier now then it used to be! I feel the same way with chores. My oldest just took over kitchen cleaning duties and every time he loads the dishwasher I feel like doing a little dance! Plus I am teaching him how to do it my way and not my husband’s half ass version. His future wife can thank me!

Melanie
11 years ago

Dylan’s face in the first picture, and the two of them in their little camp chairs? Wow.

Emily
Emily
11 years ago

I think you need to write a how-to on how to go camping with young kids. I am dying to go with mine, who are the same age as yours, but have absolutely no idea where to begin in terms of what to bring, what to expect, etc. You guys look like you are always having a blast.

Erin
11 years ago

Thank you for this. I’m only entering Month Five, but it’s good to know that it’s going to be heck, and anything we’re feeling right now – resentment, frustration, sadness, regret – are normal and it’s important for us to work together, partner up, rally and recognize that we’ll get through it and there is light at the end. You’re the best, L.

Katie
Katie
11 years ago

It amazes me sometimes how right this sentiment is! Just the simple ability to leave the house without a diaper bag and extra food and etc, etc etc. I have a 7 and an (almost) 4 year old and I love that they can do activities with us that we like to do as a family! Love it! Enjoy!

Lawyerish
11 years ago

Ah, this is so great. It’s so awesome to see how much all the hard work of parenting babies and toddlers pays off (which is, unfairly, not true of everything in life).

Relatedly, sometimes I think I should stop at one kid because we’ll get to the easier part so much more quickly; but then I see these photos of your two boys together and I think, nope — we definitely have to slog through babyhood one more time. It will be so, so worth it.

(And that post you linked to — holy mother of… I remember reading it and loving it back in 2008 pre-kid, but now as a mother it absolutely takes my breath away. DAMN, you can write.)

AddieandEva
AddieandEva
11 years ago

As a 30-year old, married for one year with zero kids – I love reading your blog for your honesty! The older I get, the more I grasp the gravity of what it means to be a parent. I’ve learned a lot from reading about your experiences in familyhood. Your boys are so very lucky. :)

Liz
Liz
11 years ago

This has nothing to do with your post, but I wanted to tell you how buff and tan you look in that photo. Wowsa!

Flesworthy
11 years ago

I totally get what you’re saying. I’m a stay-at-home mom to twins who turned four this spring; I’ve been telling my husband all summer that it feels like I got a promotion at work.

ssm
ssm
11 years ago

I keep thinking the exact same thing (have a 6 and 3 y.o. too), but then I go back to wanting another kid and think I must be insane.

Stephanie
Stephanie
11 years ago

Mine are 5.5 and 2.5. I can almost FEEL IT.

Mama Ritchie
Mama Ritchie
11 years ago

I so needed this. I’m at the precipice of the terrible 2s with Sam and OMFG I don’t think I’m going to make it. If only he could TALK to me, instead of screaming and clawing my face. Thank you so much for this post to remind me that it won’t last forever. And congrats for making it to the other side!

Jessica
11 years ago

This makes me feel better about the future. I’m a baby person. I looooove having babies. I currently have a newborn (and a 2yo) and the only thing that could make right now better is a little more sleep. So, while I don’t think life will be *bad* when they’re older, I worry I won’t like it as much.

Fiona
Fiona
11 years ago

So true – ours are 13 and 5 now. On a side note, could you do a geeky photography post sometime? I have a Nikon, but no way could I achieve that smoky stick picture for example. Your photos are delicious, and I would love to capture my kids so beautifully.

adequatemom
11 years ago

This is exactly how I feel about my daughter being three! It’s so true, this is the good stuff. Love the pics, too!

Shannan
Shannan
11 years ago

Yes yes yes. Mine are 4 and 1 and we need some air in here too.

april
11 years ago

Oh thank god there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I love my kids, but at 11 months and 3 1/2, I’m at the end of my rope an awful lot. Elder is currently in time out for hanging on younger’s high chair instead of eating his chicken.

H
H
11 years ago

Mine are grown and gone – and I am so happy that you’ve gotten to this point. Continue to stay in the moment…it is so very important.

Katy
Katy
11 years ago

Find some wood to knock on…now! Just kidding. Enjoy it.

Sharon
Sharon
11 years ago

I totally get it. It gets better too. My boys are 9 and 6 now and they are so much fun. It is a different kind of busy now but nothing like the tough baby years.

Sandy
Sandy
11 years ago

I think the next 5-7 years will be wonderful!! Enjoy your family.

Noemi
11 years ago

OMFG, I have never needed a post like I needed this one. This just made my whole day better, and my kid is only three weeks old.

Melanie D
11 years ago

My kids are 5 and 8 and I can tell you this – it continues to get better and you will continue to marvel at just how much better it continues to be. I’ve read that age 7 is awesome (for the fact that they enjoy your nurturing but can be more independent) and I really do agree. I hope we can all keep blogging so that when they are all jack ass teenagers we can commiserate about that too.

Trina
Trina
11 years ago

My kids are the same age as yours and it’s not so much easier for me at all. Maybe I am crazy, but, dealing with a toddler and a newborn was so much easier for me. They didn’t fight with each other, they could be strapped down in public places. But I am also in the, I can deal with newborn babies all day (and night) long, once they start moving is when they scare me, camp. That being said, it is pretty awesome when they are getting along and playing nicely with each other (which is more times than not).

nonsoccermom
11 years ago

This is so very true and exactly describes how I feel. My daughter is just a little older than Dylan and things are just so much EASIER now! My son is almost 9 and while I know we’re about to get into preteen territory with him, I plan to relax and enjoy the next few years. Whew.

ememby
11 years ago

Do you know how hopeful this makes me feel – that I might be within a year of feeling that same freedom? I totally understand what you are saying – we are just approaching that magical time when the kids will hit a sweet spot of loving each other and us and not being little sh*ts all the time until they hit puberty and become big sh*ts (lord, it sounds awful to put it that way – but it’s so true).

I think the newborn phase is what carries you through the hell of toddlerdom and then 5.5-9ish will carry us through the teen years.

Congrats on your parole!

Aimee
11 years ago

I so totally agree. And just you wait – it gets better! Our boys are 11 and 8; it gets SO much better.

Would you mind sharing where were you camping? We’re relatively new to the SEA area, and I’m not sure how to find the best campsites.

Cathy
Cathy
11 years ago

Please keep writing posts like this!! My kids are 3 and 1 and I needed this reminder just as that… well maybe just one more baby… bug hits me!! Thanks :)

Kirsty
11 years ago

Totally agree! I loved my girls when they were babies, really loved them, but I’m soooooo not a baby person! Parenting babies and (OMG) toddlers is HARD!
My girls are now 9.5 and 7 and it’s so much fun! We’re going to Italy (Genoa) on holiday by train in August (9 hours travelling!) and we can go to museums and restaurants, just the three of us, and I know everything will be fine. We don’t have to do purely “kid-related” things any more (though of course we’ll do some!). So far, I’ve loved each pair of ages more than the last (with 3 and 1.5 easily the worst).
Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Carrie
11 years ago

My dad always says that as much as we love our 30s (when our kids are little, as is the case with my husband and I who waited until we were 30 and 32 to start having them), that we’ll love our 40s even more. His reason: the kids are beyond the baby/toddler/early preschool years, are relatively self-sufficient, can travel longer distances, hang out later in restaurants, hike, bike, run, etc. with the best of the grownups (probably better).

My children are nearly 5 years and 16 months at present, and if the last few days of staying inside due to the ridiculous heat wave has shown me anything it is that his words are probably very very true.

Enjoy! and keep enjoying!

KarinP
KarinP
11 years ago

My kids are 4 and 2 years old, and its still freaking hard every day. Stifling. No breaks. I swear they are more needy now than as a newborn. I can’t even take a shower without one beating on the door crying because I’m in the shower. Ughh. I’m glad to hear there is a light at the end of this tunnel, even if I can’t see it.

Penny
11 years ago

My Grandmother told me when I was due to give birth to my first child: “don’t worry about labor dear, once you see your baby you will forget all about labor and delivery” What she left out was she mean that was just a precurser of what was to come. A year and two weeks after that our second child was born. I thought seriously about losing my mind and running away … a lot. Then 5 years later we had another one and the following year another one. I cannot begin to tell you how much I believe that Sears needs to offer complete hysterectomys in their catelog. Enjoy this time, savor it , you’ll blink and they will be teenagers. Take more pictures too, so you can refer back to them when they piss you off so completely as a teenager you start questioning why oh why…. just saying.

Kelley O
Kelley O
11 years ago

Did I black out for a year or something? Because Dylan looks like a total little MAN now! Last I checked, he was just a little kid. WTF happened? :) I’m so happy for you that you’re enjoying them so much, that’s wonderful to hear. And you, YOU look “mah-vel-ous”. (that was my best Billy Crystal impression)

Heather
Heather
11 years ago

I have been thinking this as well, although we are more like ‘we can see the light at the end of the tunnel’ rather than full-throttle loving it. Our youngest is 2.5, so we’re on the cusp of things getting much easier and liveable. The negotiating free time comment really hit home, because it’s only been in the past couple months where solo parenting while one of us has some free time has felt less like, well, as you said, a jail sentence.

Jennifer in Germany
Jennifer in Germany
11 years ago

I have realized that I do love babies: the tiny new born cuddled into the crook of your neck; the fresh from God smell, the world in narrow focus as you try to elicit a smileā€¦but after four babies, I have accepted we are DONE. I am overwhelmed and whew!– as my youngest is almost 2, the fog is starting to lift and you are so right! It is getting easier and more enjoyable. Please, let’s not think about adolescence yet. I want to enjoy this middle place.

Claire
11 years ago

Every time my kids make new advancements in this department, I am in awe too. I cannot wait for mine to be 3 and 6! Right now they are 15 months and 4 so I have some time but your post reminded me that soon enough, things will get better. :)

Bree
Bree
11 years ago

I have been reading your blog since Riley was born. We have a three year old son and expect our second son in just a few weeks. I find myself wondering WHY we are doing this again sometimes. When I saw this I knew EXACTLY why. Your writing and descriptions of family are very reflective of where we are going. Its wonderful to have a look into what is to come. Thank you.

Christina
11 years ago

It is crazy to finally see that light at the end of the tunnel when before it seemed neverending. I feel like the baby stage was wonderful in its own right but the older the kids get I feel like our world expands a tad bit more and that is neat!

I would love to hear what your kids do in the car now on road trips. Our daughter is a little younger, she turns three on August 2nd but I know that one day there will be less strife in the backseat and I wonder what others do to entertain kids while on road trips!

Becky
Becky
11 years ago

Again your timing is perfect!

Thank you!

Jen
Jen
11 years ago

oh man. I think while you’re in it, you just go through your days, just trying to survive. At least that’s what I feel like right now with a 4 year old (SOOOO CLOSE TO BEING A BIG KID!) and a nearly 1 year old (not… even close to being a big kid. heh) I hate to wish these chubby baby days away, I really do. But honestly I daydream about in a few years when we can have just that little bit of freedom back and be able to enjoy fully our kids without it being such a stressful balancing act. You know?

Belle
Belle
11 years ago

I adore that photo of the boys by the campfire. Awesome photo.

I can remember the summers when our daughter was 2 and 3 and telling my husband: I HATE SUMMER. Geesh, she was an active go-getter and I had to be outside with her every minute of the day making sure she wasn’t running down to the pond, knocking on people’s doors, eating the dirt, etc etc etc. Indoors was just as bad. And our son had been the exact same way 4 years before that. Then MAGIC happened. You are there now…..enjoy it!

Maggie
Maggie
11 years ago

I totally know what you mean. Mine are 10 and 5 and sometimes they give me too much room! I have to beg them to hang out with me. There are other challenges for sure in raising school agers, but it is more emotional stuff and a lot less just trying to survive another day. I would keep my kids this age forever if I could!