When my eldest child was about 6 months old, I remember talking to a mother who had older kids. I mentioned how hard it was having a baby who could at any moment, put anything in his mouth or fall down the stairs. I felt like I was so frazzled- that I had to watch this kid constantly or he would die. I said that I thought it would probably get easier as he became more independent and got older. The mom with older kids said something that has always stuck with me. She said that being a mom is always the same level of hard- it’s just different types of hard.
I get it now.
Honestly, I’m starting to feel like it was easier when they were little. It was ok if my house was dirty. It was ok if the floor of my car was basically a layer of goldfish. It was ok if I didn’t brush my hair or drank a lot of caffeine- I had little kids. It’s ok to be frazzled or stressed out or lonely when you have little kids because it’s hard. You get more lenience for being a hot mess when you have little kids. The problem I am facing is that the kids grew up, but I still feel frazzled.
The kids grew older, but I am still a bit of a mess.
I was really good at being a mom to little kids. I love to sing to them. I love to teach them. I love the cute things they say. I loved to take my little kids to the store because people would stop me and say, “Good job!” just for the simple fact that I had taken my children out of the house. I love to hold little kids. I love to smoosh their cheeks. I love how they take naps, just like their mom. I loooove little kids.
I’m not as good at being a mom to older kids. I’m not good at helping with homework (MATH IS HARDER NOW). I’m less charmed by the things they say (BUTT IS NOT AS FUNNY AS YOU THINK IT IS, ADAM). I feel like I am always driving. I feel like the tv is always on. I don’t’ know how to explain periods without traumatizing my daughter and I can’t even touch male puberty with a ten-foot-pole. I still haven’t figured out what snacks to bring to sporting events. (I’M PRETTY SURE CAPRI SUN IS GLUTEN-FREE, AMBER). I still can’t really get them to vigorously eat vegetables. We have, however, really mastered the art of eating corndogs. (We’re calling our time in quarantine the “Corndogavirus.”)
The thing that I really struggle with is the feeling of dire consequences that come with kids getting older. With an older kid, I am constantly worrying that this is it- this is the person they are going to be. We don’t have much more time. Childhood is marching on and I still can’t get my kids to clean up, will they be hoarders? I’m doing a bad job addressing puberty, will they be ashamed of their bodies? I didn’t put them into a lot of activities, will they get into college? If I see them be mean, I don’t view it as, “Oh they’re being mean.” Instead, the thought instantly pops up, “Oh, I wonder if they’re going to grow up to be sociopaths?” Then I google “sociopath” to remind myself that, phew, we’re doing ok on that front.
Basically, my parenting goals at this point are: don’t raise sociopaths and don’t give them too much material for memoirs about their childhoods. That is ALL that I am really getting A’s on at this point.
It was easier when they were little. It was easier when I didn’t see my mistakes playing out in their lives. It was dancing and joy and snuggles and I miss it, I do. The only thing that gets me through the worry I feel is that the joy and love and snuggles that happened when they were little is still playing out in their lives- it’s a part of them too and will always be.
I can only hope that their future childhood memoirs have good long chapters about snuggling and cheek smooshes. Fingers crossed.