My first two children were very planned, my third was not. I had no idea how I was going to handle being pregnant with two toddlers in the house, much less have a baby with two toddlers in the house.
Through a storm of diaper changing, meltdowns (theirs and mine), lots of parenting mistakes, and at least a dozen cases of the stomach flu ripping through our house at the same time, we made it through the younger years. But I hesitate to say we made it in one piece. That’s still to be determined.
This Was When Parenting Was Easiest
There was a glorious period of time when they were twelve, eleven, and nine, and they all knew the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, and the Easter bunny didn’t exist. They all were out of diapers, they could all make a sandwich, and my only worry was that while taking a shower, they’d tear each other’s hair out.
During this glorious period of time, I felt like I was finally coming up for air and was able to get a grasp on things. Some of my worries started to dissolve. I was patting myself on the back for raising respectful, kind children who liked to snuggle with me and didn’t think I was an idiot who knew nothing.
Looking back, I was giving myself too much credit–I had no idea how good I had it in those days. In my mind, the tough stuff was over but I soon found out I’d never been more wrong about anything in my life. It seems like overnight all three of my kids went through puberty simultaneously. In an instant, someone had nabbed my sweet kids and exchanged them for oilier, hairier, ruder versions of themselves.
Parenting a Teen (or Three) is Hard
Once they’d needed me, now I repelled them. Instead of them asking me questions until the sun went down, I couldn’t get a word out of them. Instead of wanting to go for ice cream with me, they didn’t want me within 10 yards of them in a public place.
I no longer knew what went on in the depths of their minds. Trying to get one teenager to look people in the eye, say hello, and put down their damn phone at a family gathering is one thing. But to have three little jerks walking around like they own the place is another story.
I was no longer relieved I didn’t have to move the Elf on The Shelf every night. That suddenly felt like a cake walk compared to making sure they weren’t sneaking their phones into their room at night. I longed for the days when all I’d find in their backpacks was a few weeks’ worth of baby carrots and smashed bananas.
Living with three teenagers, with their body odor, axe spray, snide remarks, and their trail of teenage-ness is no joke. You are still their parent and you still need to call the shots, but now they fight you every step of the way. And if you have more than one teen and you think that someone in the house is going to side with you, think again.
They know it’s three against one and they aren’t going to take their situation for granted. I’m not proud to say this but there have been times when I’ve relented and bought the extra cheese burger meal, and then lost sleep about how I mishandled the situation just to stop the madness.
They no longer fight about toys, something I could handle, they fight about who used whose razor. They no longer want me to lie with them until they fall asleep. They want to be out and about tasting freedom with their friends. Freedoms they can’t handle, but are positive they can so they break the rules to get a taste and I’m left trying to trust them with a side dish of anxiety.
There are days when I look at them sitting on the sofa, their huge adult-looking bodies making me catch my breath and think, I made them. I made them really freaking close together and I clearly wasn’t thinking about raising three teens at once.
When they were little, I could throw them all in the bath, scrub them up and put them to bed at the same time. They were all on the same schedule. As one went through a stage, I knew there would shortly be more of the same with the next child in line.
Having three teens is a very concentrated version of having one. It’s heavy. It’s hard. One minute your heart gets ripped apart, and the next it’s sewn together. It is both excruciating and awesome, and there’s nothing I’d rather be doing than hanging on for the ride.