Don’t get me wrong, I loved my cuddly babies, warm from the bath and smelling like deliciousness in their footie pajamas. I loved chasing them through stores where we shouldn’t be running while they giggled like maniacs and people gawked, or exploring leaves and bugs and tiny parts of the world that big people forget are there. I truly enjoyed being a mom with babies and toddlers and preschoolers.
But it was a lot of work, and that exhausted, run-ragged part of me sat patiently in waiting for a time when I could close my bedroom door or pick up a book while they were all still awake and alert in other parts of the house and I wouldn’t have to worry what they might be putting into their mouths or sticking into an electrical socket or pouring on the floor.
And of course, it’s come.
I won’t tell you that now that they are older I don’t long for the days when I could just pick them up and move them, when I could distract them from a tantrum with a game of peek-a-boo or snuggle them close and make everything in their worlds alright again. Of course I appreciate those days more in retrospect—isn’t that one of the biggest pitfalls of being human? We are always longing for what’s to come, and once we get there, we miss the days that have passed.
What I will say is that it’s not what I expected. I had these ideas—you know, these ways that parents deal with teenagers that are all wrong. I mean, I was 16 when my oldest was born. I knew what mistakes to avoid when the time came.
But now, it seems I’ve forgotten. Or maybe I wasn’t as prepared as I thought. Or maybe I was wrong. Teenagers are not easy. Tweens are harder than toddlers. Sorry, moms. Everyone lied. It never gets easier when kids grow up.
My oldest is in college now. I’ve somehow managed to avoid a lot of the problems with her. She didn’t fight with me about boyfriends or curfews, or come home drunk, or stay out all night, or any of those things that I know are coming with my next ones. My oldest was easy. She’s still easy. She’s a beautiful person, and she’s true to herself. And while her grades could use some work, I am beyond proud of the woman she is becoming.
I’m proud of all of my children. Of course I’m proud of them. That’s always been the easy part. They’re good kids. They do well in school, they’re responsible, and they stay out of trouble—for the most part.
But no one told me that kids get harder to parent as they get older. No one told me that those days when my kindergartner came home from school in tears because someone was mean to her, well, that was just training me for the days when my son would come home and tell me that a kid tried to fight him and he refused to throw the first punch, or the days when my middle-schooler would come home and tell me that her friend got caught with pot at school.
Or the day I would find marks on her arms from where she’s cut herself.
These days do not get easier.