As a mother of very young children, I have always struggled with the statement, “Enjoy it now because then they grow up and become toddlers/preteens/teenagers”.
Well, I’m here to tell you that now I get it, but I still hate it.
In the past three year, I have had had three babies. Two of these babies are biological and one was brought into our home through the foster care system. Let’s just say I have changed a lot of diapers, been up a lot of nights and seen a beautiful abundance of firsts. I’ve got the baby thing down.
It’s hard. It’s sleepless nights and crying. So much crying. It’s diaper changes and hauling that massive diaper bag everywhere I go. It’s not being able to talk to anyone and feeling lonely while in the midst of the chaos. It’s 24/7 being needed by the babies, but never fully appreciated. It’s buckling car seats and always having to travel with a stroller, pack n play and 8 million other things to keep the baby happy, entertained and alive. It’s wiping butts and noses constantly and never, ever having a chance to go to the bathroom by myself.
Surely there is no way that it gets harder than this. I mean…an older kid goes to school for 7 hours a day, can wipe their own butts and wash their hair independently. They can put themselves to bed and get themselves dressed in the morning. What is so difficult about all of that? Those other Mom’s have got to be dead wrong. Or maybe it is still hard parenting older children, but they are just forgetting how truly difficult it is to parent young ones.
And then one Sunday afternoon (Mother’s Day) I got a phone call that changed my life forever. Would we take in a 10 year old girl?
Yes. And just like that, I get it now.
So as someone who is parenting both an older child and two younger children, take my word for it:
It’s not easier. It’s different.
Sure, she goes to school for several hours of the day, but school pickup, drop off, teacher communication and dealing with the fallout of a negative report card is one of the most stressful things I’ve ever had to deal with.
Sure, she gets herself dressed and can independently take care of her hygiene, but girlfriend hates showers and I am powerless to make her take a shower. I have to say my piece, encourage her daily to do it and sometimes even command her to make it happen, but the decision is still in her hands. I can’t be stripping her down and throwing her in the tub.
Sure, she technically should understand the idea of privacy but now I have a toddler AND a pre-teen following me to the bathroom and waiting at the door until I come out. They also follow me to the laundry room and when I go outside to get something from the car. No, I’m not joking.
Sure, she can talk and communicate, but my ears are about to start bleeding from the amount of talking and “communicating” that is actually going on in my home. And it’s mostly not cute sayings from a two-year old. It’s a play by play of the last 10 YouTube videos that were watched.
Sure, she should be able to play independently, but instead hovers right over my shoulder asking “what should we do next?”
And yet, after saying all that, I still hate being told that it will only get harder from the little years. First, that’s just a terrible thing to say to a Mom, even if it is the truth. Secondly, while it’s not necessarily easier, I would not label it harder, either. There are some awesome things that we have to look forward to like:
My 10 year old can help me out around the house! She does her own laundry (with guidance), she washes the dinner dishes everyday (can I get an AMEN?!?!?) and she can clean her own room.
My 10 year old can put on her own shoes, fill her own water bottle, pack her own bag, take herself to the car and buckle herself in (ALL the praise hands).
My 10 year old can have an actual conversation with me- it’s incredibly fun and always entertaining.
My 10 year old can process cause and effect and use logic in daily life. This is a beautiful thing to see in a child as it means that they are able to move more towards being independent and a successful person without Mom to guide their every step. It’s amazing having a front row seat to that!
My 10 year old can sit down on the couch and read a book for 30 minutes straight. 30 minutes straight is a beautiful gift to a Mom!
So, Mamas, lets remember this, no matter what stage of parenting we are in. We do not need to tell each other that it will get harder. Yes, it is still hard in a different way, but instead let us be encouraging and realistic. Having older children is not all ease and breeze like we want to imagine, but it’s also not all doom and gloom like the other parents are hinting at.