When my 15 year old son was heading out to the movies with his friends, I peppered him with questions:
“Do you have enough money?”
“Do you know where to meet me afterward?”
“You know not to talk to strangers, right? If you have a problem, look for a mom. Moms always help.”
“Did you pee? Maybe you should pee before you go?”
He looked at me and rolled his eyes, his patience for my mom questions wearing thin.
“Mah, I’m not a toddler anymore, remember?”
Oh. Right. Sigh.
As my children have grown into teens, I’m finding that my toddler/little kid parenting habits are hard to break. I’m not sure if it’s because I want to hold onto mothering them for as long as I can or whether I’m certain that teens are just as messy and forgetful as toddlers, but old habits die hard.
And I know I’m not alone. When I posed the question, “What parenting habits have been hard to break now that your kids are teens?” to the Grown and Flown Parents group, the responses ranged from practical to downright hilarious. One parent answered, “Absolutely none of them! I left the toddler years in the dust!” But, for the rest of us who are having trouble letting go of the fact that our teens need us a tiny bit less, these are some my my habits (and I know they are yours, too):
1). Moms will have a handbag full of snacks for infinity.
When my kids were small, just about any hostile toddler situation could be diffused with the words, “Anyone want a snack?” teens are no exception and I’ve thwarted many a teen tantrum by producing food bounty from the recesses of my handbag.
2). Moms will always make you wash their hands. With the hand sanitizer and handiwipes from their purse.
Toddlers touch everything and I practically bathed my kids in hand sanitizer after our daily outings. Nowadays, I use hand sanitizer by the gallon because teens and their belongings are gross. Just handling my son’s gym laundry makes me want to call a hazmat crew. And I will always offer hand sanitizer in restaurants, even when my kids are 40. #sorrynotsorry
3). Moms will always be the ones with kisses and Bandaids.
My handbag feels naked if I don’t have some form of first aid supplies for cuts and bruised teenaged egos. My teens have drawn the line at accepting my SpongeBob Bandaids, though.
4). Moms still need the kids to go to bed. Eventually.
My kids went to bed at 7 pm on the nose for years and it was heavenly. Had I known that teenagers take longer to complete their bedtime routines and regularly stay up past even my bedtime, I’d have relished those toddler free nights a bit more. Seriously, teens: go to bed. At least by 9. 10 at the latest. For the love of all that is holy, just go to bed. Your mother is begging you.
5). Mom will always worry.
No matter what the age, stage of life or place in time, a mother will always worry. Because, say it with me, parenting never ends.
6). Moms will always remind their kids to not forget pretty much anything before they leave the house.
When your kids are small, moms plan and overthink for any likely (or unlikely) situation or minor catastrophe. We pile extra blankets, hats, glove and cases of water into our cars, just in case the apocalypse happens to strike on the way to soccer practice. As we watch our teens gain their independence and spend more time away from home, it’s impossible for us not to yell, “Do you have your keys/wallet/passport/extra pair of clean underwear?” when they are running out the door. #youknowyoudoittoo
7). Moms who celebrate Christmas will always want to be called Santa Claus.
Every October, I wink at my teens and nonchalantly say, “So, what should Santa bring you this year?” I make no apologies for continuing the ruse of the fat man in the red suit cramming himself down our chimney. Toddlers and small children bring magic to the holidays and addressing presents from “Santa and Mrs. C” makes me wistful for the days when my babies wore matching footie pajamas and squealed with delight because Santa had come to our home. Teens who sleep in until noon and just want money in their stockings isn’t quite the same.
Parenting habits are hard to break and, I, for one, am not going to work too hard to change my mom ways. I’m not going to stop calling out points of interest when we are on road trips or moving cups away from the edges of tables. I will cut grapes in half and make funny faces with foods because it’s fun and teenagers won’t rain on my Pinterest parade, okay? And, I will always be the mom who grabs a handful of napkins at a fast food joint to stuff into the glove compartment. Because moms always get the job done and if anyone needs me, I’ll be stocking up on handiwipes and economy sized jars of snacks, just in case.