A couple of months ago, my sister-in-law called to ask me a question about preschool for her daughters who are three and almost one. As we talked on the phone, I could hear her baby crying in the background while the preschooler repeatedly called out “Mommy! Mommy!” I thought, “Man, I remember those days” and I could almost feel the chaos and exhaustion of balancing a baby on my hip and holding the phone with my shoulder while fixing the toddler some watered own juice in just the right cup and counting down the minutes until bedtime.
When she called me, I was sitting alone in my car running errands, unencumbered by diaper bags, car seats, and temper tantrums because all three of my daughters were in school –9th, 6th, and 4th grades to be exact.
I had a moment of peace in the middle of the day, while my younger sister-in-law was juggling the pandemonium of mothering two small children. However, I knew my “crazy time” was coming that evening with a soccer game, piano lesson, dinner, and homework to shuffle and, by the time I was smack in the middle of my parenting pandemonium, my sister-in-law would be putting hers to bed.
“Please tell me it gets easier!” a sweet but frazzled friend said just a day later as she chased her two young boys. “Sorry!” I said. “It doesn’t get any easier – when they are older, it’s just a different kind of crazy.”
There was a time when I was drowning in motherhood with toddlers and preschoolers, certain that things would be easier when they were bigger; certain that it couldn’t possibly be any harder, at least. Then, somehow, my kids grew up and I became a mother of tweens and teens. As they say, hindsight is 20/20 and, now, I realize every stage of parenting is different and every stage has its challenges. The chaos doesn’t go away; it just changes.
Parenting Then and Now: A Different Kind of Crazy
- Then, I scheduled playdates every chance I got to save my own sanity. Now, they schedule their own playdates via texting and only loop me in for scheduling and transportation purposes.
- Then, I wished that just for one day they could dress themselves instead of me wrestling them into that cute, new outfit they pitched a fit about wearing. Now, I wish they would let me dress them because their taste in fashion doesn’t always coincide with mine.
- Then, I struggled to get them to sleep and prayed they would sleep through the night. Now, I argue with them about appropriate bedtimes and struggle to wake them on school mornings.
- Then, I thought I would scream if I was asked to volunteer for one more thing. Now, I volunteer when I can – despite their annoyed eye rolling – just so I can catch a glimpse of them with their friends.
- Then, I fantasized about a time when my days would be quiet, my ears not assaulted by endless chattering, whining, and crying. Now, my days are sometimes too quiet and lonely.
- Then, I coached them to “Watch where you’re going!” and promised I would not let go as they struggled to pedal a bike. Now, my oldest just finished driver’s education and, soon, I will have to let go no matter whether either of us is ready or not.
- Then, I longed for some personal space and privacy – just a few seconds when nobody was hanging on my leg or five minutes to go to the bathroom alone. Now, I cherish the seconds when hey allow me to be in their embrace because they are few and far between these days. (And, I don’t even have to bend down to pick them up because they are almost as tall as me.)
- Then, I promised myself I wouldn’t be a helicopter mom and I struggled to let them fall; let them learn from their mistakes. Now, I want to be a helicopter mom, but I know I can’t and I pray every day that I’ve taught them well enough to avoid any life altering missteps.
It’s the natural evolution of parenting. Babies become toddlers. Toddlers become school-agers. School-agers become middle schoolers. Middle schoolers become teenagers. Teenagers become adults. Every stage is beautiful yet terrifying. Every stage has joys and struggles. Every stage can feel so very slow day-to-day, but so incredibly fast in retrospect. Every stage is different, but I don’t think any of them are easier than the others – they each just offer their own special kind of chaos. Sometimes, we savor it and, sometimes, we just try to survive it.