for some reason, and i don't know from where i got my information, but for some reason, i thought once upon a time that parenting was hardest in the beginning climbed to its height of difficulty when the child was around 5 and then became remarkably and uneventfully well, easy. i've only been at it for 15 years, but based on my personal experience and that of my friends with older kids, it.only.gets.more.challenging.
yesterday we were trying to finish up supper for a family walk. as we tidied the dishes and swept the floor, one of our boys argued. not over the task of sweeping, but over a dispute that he and i had had hours prior over, well, i honestly cannot remember what. but he was what we in the south like to term "stewing" and what i mean by this is this boy who i adore cannot stand being w-r-o-n-g. and he cannot stand being called out. and when i do call him out, it turns into a back and forth like something from a courtroom. "what is your evidence?" "how can you prove probable cause?" "did you see the defendant lay down that towel and then leave the scene?"
y'all. it's akin to that darling stage in a child's development when everything is "why?" only this go around the kid has a larger vocabulary, an arsenal of excuses and doesn't require snacks or naps to refuel their energies.
i've been thinking a lot about how we never really leave a stage of parenthood, it just sort of changes. parenting to me feels like i'm that little kid starting out on a road trip with my parents. my small legs dangling over the seat. i can't see past the front seat, and i keep asking, "are we there yet?" o, sure. i should be all "enjoy the ride, look out the window. enjoy the adventure." but, really. all i want to know is "when are we freakin' going to get 'there' cause i'm feeling carsick? " wherever there is.
i have decided to keep a tally of how often i get interrupted whilst using the loo. every.single.time. i go to the bathroom, i hear, "hhheeeeeeyyyyy, mom?" and guess what? my kids are too old for this. the youngest is 8 for crying out loud. it got me to wondering how much of life repeats itself.
for instance, the other day i was standing in the kitchen. the 13 year old walked over to me and hugged me. hard. and you know what? it was the best thing i have ever felt in my life. in fact i told him that his affection is the only gift he ever has to give me. for the rest of his life. he rolled his eyes as he shot a glance in his father's direction. "riiiiight." but i meant it. wholeheartedly. a hug from your toddler is precious. an unsolicited hug from your teenager is epic. a choice action. a reminder that in all of this screwed up parenting game, you still are in the game. at least.
sleepless nights still come though you are no longer up feeding a wailing infant. you are feeding your fears of whether or not this whole thing will work out.
fighting over independence? yup. only the littles who want to "do it by myself" are now 15 year olds who think they no longer need you for, well, anything.
getting them to eat well, stay safe. none of that changes as your children get older. it just gets bigger. as does your love. they can do more so you expect more. and sometimes that leads to more frustration when they don't do the things you know they can do (and have told them to do like a million times). and then you remember they are just a kid after all. and you remember that handy and effective tool called grace. the grace that is extended to you over and over. and with all your might, you wrench that out to use on your kid. and boy, is that the best thing.
i remember gazing at my newborn with a love that felt otherworldly. yesterday as my 13 year old walked out the door, i felt that love. a hundred times stronger. only instead of it being one sided, it came back when he said, "i need you to be my mom."
and when i am invited into the 15 year old's inner circle, a circle of one, i am grateful. he shows me what he's working on, thinking about and i cautiously tread because i never know when he's going to become incensed with me. and showing him any kind of affection is akin to court room, "permission to approach the bench" kind of exchange. never one to show his anger. i read an excerpt from a paper he once wrote, "i rarely become anger". what? is this kid really mine?
o, but he is. and so are his 3 little wild ass brothers. we have a somewhat long history with one another. a tiring history. and speaking of tiring. parenting older kids, with all the running around, staying up late helping them understand a math concept, shuttling around to this place and that-is just exhausting. so take cheer, dear young parents. you have time. so rest now.