The parenting journey takes you on an adventurous path at each stage of your child’s development. (Jennifer Bardsley)

The parenting journey takes you on an adventurous path at each stage of your child’s development. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Growing up: The ages and stages of raising your children

One minute your child is the baby in your arms, and the next minute, they’ve just landed their first job.

The weird thing about parenting is that if you do it right, you eventually put yourself out of a job.

When your kids are little they need your full attention every second. Are they breathing? Are they hungry? Do they need a clean diaper? You spend a good deal of time “wearing them” in infant-carriers to help them calm down. Good luck sleeping or taking a shower. Your babies are helpless without you.

When infants grow into toddlers you have to be careful where you put them. They’ll climb bookshelves, plug their fingers into electrical sockets and eat paper if you’re not watching. Toilet paper is a favorite toy and they will unfurl it throughout the house as soon as you turn around. Peeing on things is also fun, because why not? Hose the carpet down!

Supposedly things get easier during the preschool years, but I’m not sure that’s true. Preschoolers have strong opinions about everything, including whether or not underwear goes on the inside or the outside of pants. Watch them like a hawk or they will embarrass you in the grocery store by shaming the person next to you for buying processed foods.

Things definitely improve once you can send your kids to elementary school. (Cough, cough. Sending kids to in-person school? Those were the days…) But seriously, elementary-aged kids need a lot of help, too, especially with the most complicated math homework you’ve ever seen in your life. Quick quiz! Subtract across zeros using the box method, and show your work. Better do it fast because Little League practice starts soon.

Then comes the tween stage, and that’s when things get weird. Suddenly your house becomes quieter. At first, the peace is a welcome respite. You sit on the couch and read a book uninterrupted. You cook dinner and drink a leisurely glass of wine. But then you notice things are missing: scissors, tape, the glue gun and your favorite dishtowel. The next thing you know, the dog ambles into the room dressed like Peter Pan, a spool of thread trailing behind him. Your tween has entered “the project years,” aided and abetted by YouTube.

Still, at least tweens want to share their latest creations. Teenagers are much more secretive. They nurture private hopes and dreams you’ll know nothing about unless they choose to tell you. You and your teen might not even be awake during the same hours. Stock the fridge with food because they’ll feed themselves at midnight. Fill up the car with gas so you have leverage when you need it. But mainly, enjoy the last few moments of them being at home.

One minute your child is the baby in your arms, and the next minute, they’re walking away to their very first job. The person who needed you the most doesn’t need you at all. Congratulations parents, you’re unemployed. But don’t worry — some day, if you’re lucky, there will be a job available in the grandparents department.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at

Talk to us

More in Life

CloZee performs during the second day of Summer Meltdown on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019 in Darrington, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
The psychedelic fest Summer Meltdown is back — and in Monroe

The music and camping event is on for July 28-31, with a new venue along the Skykomish River.

Veteran Keith F. Reyes, 64, gets his monthly pedicure at Nail Flare on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021 in Stanwood, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
No more gnarly feet: This ‘Wounded Warrior’ gets pedicures

Keith Reyes, 64, visits a Stanwood nail salon for “foot treatments” that help soothe blast injuries.

Enumclaw, the band
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Most of these venues require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or negative… Continue reading

Does this ring a “Belle”? Storied anime writer-director Mamoru Hosoda’s newest resets “Beauty and the Beast” in a musical, virtual environment — among other modern twists. (GKIDS/TNS)
‘Belle’ is striking virtual reality riff on ‘Beauty and the Beast’

In it, ‘Beauty’ is the charismatic online avatar of a moody teenager that attracts the attention of a bruised and brooding Beast

"Redeeming Love"
Movie review: ‘Redeeming Love’ doesn’t yield cinematic riches

The story, about a sex worker “redeemed” by a folksy farmer in Gold Rush-era California, is creepy “tradwife” fan fiction.

Eggs Florentine
Baked Eggs Florentine: A brunch favorite inspired by a queen

The kitchen manager at Quil Ceda Creek Casino shares a dish that pays homage to a spinach-crazy 16th century monarch.

Jennifer Bardsley, author of her newest book Good Catch, at her home on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021 in Edmonds, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds author transitions from young adult novels to romance

Jennifer Bardsley’s “Good Catch” is set in an Edmonds-like town. Spoiler alert: There’s a happy ending.

Caption: They might be too old for lunch box notes, but teenagers benefit from TLC too.
Fun ways to show the teens in your life that you care

The teen years can be challenging but they don’t last long. A little bit of extra attention can go a long way.

This easy-to-make spinach and mushroom quiche is perfect for a light dinner or fancy brunch. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)
Gretchen’s table: A spinach-mushroom quiche with cheesy goodness

The savory egg custard baked in a pie crust is easy to make — especially if you use a refrigerated crust.

Most Read