I am tired. Not just any old tired, but rather the kind that comes with raising another human being.
This is not, however, the tired that comes with a toddler running over both your psyche and your body nonstop. While I found the potty training phase stressful and at times embarrassing, I think that deep, deep down I knew that at some point, she would use the bathroom solo.
What I feel now is a different kind of tired than what I felt a decade ago.
I feel guilty saying that I’m tired at all because my child is a tween. In fact, my daughter is counting down the days until she’s a teenager. She dresses and bathes herself. She would be disturbed by the idea of climbing into bed with me in the middle of the night. She not only feeds herself, but can whip up a meal if pressed to do so.
This fatigue is the result of more than just staying up longer than I’d like because I have to pick her up from a friend’s house after a late-over on a Friday night or getting up at the crack of dawn on Saturday to drive her to an early activity.
This tiredness is rooted in more than just the physical. It is the emotional kind of exhaustion that is the result of larger worries. It is from the worries that come with discussing domestic violence, sexting and drugs. From the knowledge that those are realities now for kids the same age as my child, that they happen in my child’s school.
It’s the kind of tired that comes not with continually answering an endless barrage of toddler questions and wondering why the child can’t just be quiet for two minutes. It’s more the weariness of wondering about all that is unsaid and kept solely to herself, the weight of what is unsaid. Knowing that there are hard questions you can no longer answer, wrongs you can’t right, social injustices you cannot explain, and hurts that cannot be kissed away takes a toll.
All moms want to make the world right for their children, but we eventually reach a point where we are incapable of doing so. Even if I could jump in with a quick fix, I know I shouldn’t.
It’s surprising how doing nothing other than biting your tongue can be exhausting.
When she is feeling more, it is hard to not feel more for her.
Yes, I know it’s my job as a parent to not get sucked into the drama. I try my best to stay above the tween fray. But it doesn’t make it easy to watch her go through it. I strive to be the calm adult, which, of course, she takes as proof that I cannot begin to comprehend what she’s feeling.
I was a bit shocked on her 12th birthday that my parenting time with her was two-thirds done. My heart caught in my throat when I pictured that pie chart. As a result, parenting took on a sense of urgency that I hadn’t expected.
There is so much for her to learn over our last six years together (God willing). There’s so much that I want to experience with her, but I know that experiences with parents aren’t exactly at the top of her wish list. And all of the mistakes I’ve made over the past 12 years? I so want to go back and fix those, not for me but for her.
I know I’m lucky. I am absolutely privileged to be an exhausted mom of a kid who is no longer little.
I’m ridiculously fortunate that my child has made it to this complicated, wonderful age and that I’m here to witness the highs and lows that adolescence brings. I’m guessing that the teenage years don’t leave a parent feeling much better, and I’ve heard from many friends who found those years left them even more bone weary.
When I was pregnant, an older coworker who rarely spoke told me, “You’ll never sleep the same way again,” and walked away. He was so right. And now I understand that he was so very tired himself.
It seems that adage about the bigger the children, the bigger the problems is true. I’m hoping that at some point the worries subside. I realize that they likely will not. As Toni Morrison wrote, “Grown don’t mean nothing to a mother. A child is a child. They get bigger, older, but grown? What’s the supposed to mean? In my heart it don’t mean a thing.”