So much of parenting information — blogs, magazines, websites — focuses on the younger years. Cheetos ground into the carpet. Endless mateless socks. Not being able to pee or take a bath alone. And the bake sale that you forgot about until 11 o’clock the night before.
Then there’s the endless whining, the numerous school lunches, and the carpools. The soccer practices, piano lessons, and school plays. Toss into all that the husband who’s always late, out with his friends, or wanting to get frisky after you’ve been pulled at all day, and you have the makings of a psychotic break that would make the writers of Criminal Minds proud.
Yep. Been there. Done that. Have the T-shirts, the scars, the nervous ticks, and the inability to deal with any more drama and bullshit that comes with it.
Here’s the kicker: All the stuff you’ve been told about when your children get older and their upcoming desire for independence is utter and complete bullshit. Sure, there are kids who start as babies and move on to adulthood (at least, that’s what I’ve heard), but the truth is that the kids who are coming to adulthood now just don’t seem to want to be adults. At all. Ever.
Here is a list of five things that I was told the entire time I was raising my children, things that the older generation assured me would come to pass as soon as I got through the toddler and childhood years. But, guess what? Not a single one of them is true. Life with older kids is not easier.
1. You’ll have plenty of time to do what you want when they get older.
How many times can I say bullshit in one article and it be alright? This is not the case! I still have to do all the things I did when they were little — clean the house, cook dinner, make sure they have what they need, and micromanage their chores (on top of working 11-hour shifts). You’d think a simple text telling them to clean the house would be enough for people who are grown to understand that, yes, you have to clean behind and inside the toilet, and yes, there is a limit to how much the trashcan holds. But it isn’t. Nope. They still clean like they’re 5 years old, and without constant monitoring, they don’t do that much.
2. As soon as they learn to drive, you’ll have to beg them to stay home.
Think again. I got my driver’s license at 16 and never looked back, but I had to threaten my kids to even get them behind the wheel of a car. And getting them out of the house? I make up errands to send them on to get a little peace and quiet. It doesn’t matter that I have a billion cans of peas in the cabinet. If sending them to the store for one more gives me 15 minutes alone, then we will, by golly, have a billion and one.
3. They won’t want to talk to you once they get older.
Beeehhhh. Wrong. Think again. Don’t get me wrong, I love that my relationship with my kids is such that they feel comfortable coming to me with their issues. Any parent would be grateful for that. But could we maybe talk about them during the daylight hours instead of at midnight when I have to get up at 4 a.m.?
Then there’s the constant chatter. Yes, I’m interested in their lives. Yes, I’m glad they have things they love to do. But when I’m trying to work at home, I need a little peace and quiet. I need to focus on what I’m doing and not on answering a thousand texts about the peanut butter brand or which color apples we need.
And the “Mom! Mom! Mom!” thing that’s supposed to end? It doesn’t. I hear it from the second I walk in the door until I go to bed — and sometimes even after that. And it seems like that toddler radar that just knows when my attention is elsewhere is still functioning just fine.
4. Their toys won’t be all over the house when they get older.
Wrong again. Their toys are still all over the house. The only thing that’s changed is the type of the toys. Whereas it used to be dinosaurs and action figures, it’s now video game controllers and laptops. On the sofa. On the floor. And all over the dining table. Would it kill them to put them up where they aren’t in the way? Apparently, it would.
5. Older kids can take care of themselves.
Really? In what world? Sure, they can fix their own dinner if it’s already in the fridge and all they have to do is heat it up. They can wash the dishes if they’re threatened enough, and they can do their own laundry if someone reminds them a gazillion times to do it. But they don’t seem to be able to get up in the morning and figure out what needs to be done on their own. They can’t look at a dirty house and decide that it needs cleaning, and they can’t conceive of a meal that has to be cooked from scratch. And this isn’t from lack of teaching them how. They’ve been taught to cook, clean, and think for themselves. It just hasn’t sunk in yet.
So, the short version is that our parenting responsibilities don’t end when the rest of the world says older kids should be able to care for themselves, and all those hours we spend teaching them how to function on their own, or at least take care of their basic needs, don’t bring results as quickly as they did for our parents.
The flip side to that is that I have a close relationship with my kids, one that still includes family movie night, and I know in my heart that I’ve taught them how to make it. I know that when the day comes when they are finally actually grown and out on their own, I’ll have done my job to the best of my ability and that my children will always be home for the holidays, probably waiting for me to cook the dinners.