When your kids are little, you are usually exhausted.
It is so physically demanding: chasing after them, getting them dressed, fed, bathed. You can’t just tell them to do something, you usually have to do it with them. You rarely get time for yourself, because if you get them to bed at a decent time, you usually have to follow shortly after that as the early morning comes quickly and you have to start the routine all over again (if you make it through the night without getting up).
You just feel like it’s never going to end and crave some time for yourself and think about how much better it will be in the future….
And better it gets. As they grow, they begin to be more independent. You can ask them to do things and they are capable of doing them. They still require your help, but they still are willing to listen. They usually still also hold you in the highest esteem. They will hug you, hold your hand, share their thoughts and feelings and willingly spend time with you. There’s a “sweet spot” of time and this is it! You start to reclaim sleep and a bit more “adult time”.
Then they enter the tween years and you see a slight shift where they are a little more cheeky, less communicative, and less enthused about cuddles, hugs and greeting you. They start to voice their own opinions, and start to test some limits, but are usually agreeable in the end.
Then you hit teen years. Wham.
Now, I have been very, very blessed so far. I actually have some awesome teens! I really have nothing to complain about. We have our blips of disrespect or moodiness, and the desire to spend time with you is greatly reduced, but overall, having teens is an awesome experience.
The problem with teenagers, is it goes back to a period of sheer exhaustion! But it’s a different kind. It’s physical and mental.
Bedtime is pretty much non existent. Gone are the days of getting the kids to bed so I can catch up on things in my life: a bit of work, tv show, read a book. They are up either doing their own work, finishing up a sport practice or are wanting to talk (and you never want to miss that chance!!) . On school nights, you end up trying to get everyone in bed at the same time as you, and weekends, trying to stay awake to go pick them up or wait up until they are safely home.
Extracurricular activities are long, late (or very early) and very frequent. Not to mention usually far! It’s normal to get home at 10 and they will be looking for a full on meal!
School work all of a sudden gets heavier and they start to realize the importance of study habits and grades. There’s a bit of panic about “what am I going to do in life” and thinking about timing of it all. Lots of decisions and choices they need to make. Lots of insecurity, uncertainty, and flip flopping of ideas. There’s a lot of pressure on them, and not much you can do as a parent to “take it away”.
Then there’s the mental. Having 5 kids in this phase of life, means there are 5 dramas going on. Not all bad, not all good. But each one at a different stage emotionally, self esteem wise, motivation wise, relationship wise. There’s not a day that goes by that there is not constant talk with Rob about at least one kid in more of a challenging “life” situation. And usually there are conversations about multiple kids. Ok, really? Conversations about all the kids! And the worry that goes along with those conversations? Well I guess the conversations are there to help cope with all that worry!
To top it all off, it’s also a much more lonely stage for parents – at least I think it is. When the kids were younger, you had all the play groups, and school groups and you were involved in arranging play dates, parties and you get to know the parents. You sat at games and practices, you went to the park together, and you invited your neighbors to hang on the porch as your kids played in your yard. Your social circle often became an extension of your children’s social circle!
As teens, they are so much more independent. You often don’t know the friends, never mind the parents! And the challenges your teens have are sometimes more complicated, and harder to share. And often you don’t even know what’s going on! And when you do, you have their privacy to consider and respect.
The problem with teenagers, is you revert back to those early years of parenting where you just have no idea what you are doing and how you got yourself into this all!! As you see your kids get older, you realize that there are life lessons they need to learn and many of them are hard. You realize you can’t protect them, or take the experiences away. You can’t force feed the advice and you often watch them do things that you know will complicate their lives. Their heartache, struggles, pain and sadness you end up carrying around too. And the worry is pretty intense.
The plus side, is their joy, celebrations, accomplishments and success is better than anything you could imagine! It’s an awesome thing to watch your child “become” who they become! You know it is all worth it, but you are also very very aware that time is quickly slipping by and as soon as you “figure” out this parenting stage, you will be moving on to another. The scary part is, that next phase is one where they usually fly from the nest. Not sure I’m ready for that yet….
For now, I’ll just savor all the good and get through the worry! I’ve heard that it actually never stops. Your kids are your kids for life, and with every phase comes new challenges. Despite all the challenges, I’m so grateful that I have 5 amazing kiddos to go through this crazy journey with, with an amazing partner always by my side.