No couple wanting to start a family, looks at each other with shining eyes and hopeful expectations and says, “Let’s have a teenager.”
Pre-Mommy and Pre-Daddy have a vision of their life with Baby, the tiny human whom they will love with all of their heart and soul. Of course, they will. That tiny person is born bright, shiny, and beautiful. Usually a mini-me of one or both. Sure, Baby will cry, poop, spit up, and wake up at excruciatingly inconvenient hours of the night, but Baby is supposed to do that. It’s cute. Exhausting, but cute.
Baby becomes toddler.
Toddler becomes kid.
Then it happens. The one thing no first time Mom or Dad is ever ready for, no matter how many books are read or how many friends have travelled the road before them. It will not help if they’ve had a dozen more tiny humans after the first. When the oldest crosses into the teen years, all hell will break loose in a way none can prepare for.
I’ve been among the crowd of baby-parents who are so tired they can’t remember their own name. I’ve done years of night-time feedings and diaper changes. I’ve walked floors for hours with colicky little ones, sat in ER waiting rooms for “Lord knows what is wrong with my kid, but the fever is high and something green is coming out of his ear,” and I’ve lived through countless tantrums over why he can’t name the dog that we don’t have because he is afraid of dogs and doesn’t want one and other equally ridiculous situations.
And that is just one of my kids. I have four of these people.
They are all equally unreasonable.
But nothing they ever did, or didn’t do, as small beings ever compared to the stress and worry I’ve experienced as they became young adults.
When the kids are little, parents live in a state of near constant comatose-like exhaustion. It is what we sign up for. The upside is that, for the most part, (barring catastrophic illness and such) up until about middle school we are able to “fix” the bad stuff. We can still love the hurts away.
Cuts and scrapes can be healed with a bandage and a kiss. The mean kid on the playground will turn out to be your friend or not, but Mom has cookies and a juice box wrapped in a hug, either way. Favorite bedtime stories can still ease the stress at the end of a terrible day spent mostly in time out.
Our worries about our children are different when they are younger. It isn’t that fears don’t exist, but they live closer, within reach of Mom and Dad. The kids aren’t going off alone, they probably don’t have a cell phone, and their world is much more parent and family centered.
When they become teenagers, their world expands. Their friends are their center. They have access to social media that, let’s face it, we can’t be on top of every minute of every day. We have to trust that we’ve given them the tools to make the best choices when they aren’t with us.
And we have to accept that sometimes they won’t.
As a parent of teenagers I have lost more sleep, walked more floors, and shed more tears than I ever did over my babies when they were little.
These have been the hardest years of parenting.
Waiting for the door to open at curfew. Trying not to helicopter parent. Navigating the road of being involved, but not invasive, and learning how to set the bar high for them, while not making success an unattainable goal.
I have prayed more, second guessed myself more, and done far more research than ever. I tried to remember what it was like when I stood in my teenager’s shoes. How did I feel when my parents were on my case about something?
As my children are growing into adults, they have their own dreams and plans. They have their own thoughts and ideas about what they should be able to think and do, and they have feelings.
They have ALL the feelings about everything.
What they don’t have is the maturity to know that they don’t have the maturity to know.
About much of anything.
So it all comes down to love and patience.
Love and patience from both sides because none of us have been here before. Yes, as Parents we carry the advantage of maturity, wisdom, and knowledge, but we are still going to make mistakes. As we try to guide our kids through one of the craziest times of their lives we are going to screw stuff up.
I have one in college and another almost out the door. Two more are following up and I am looking back to the baby years with longing and wonder. It seemed so easy from where I stand now.
The sleepless nights over babies who were far too awake for anyone’s good, look like a piece of cake now that I lay awake in worry over “are they really where they say they are/with who they said they’re with/doing what they said they’re doing?”
Did I teach them all the things they need to know to make the right choices? Did I give them all the right speeches and talks and lessons that will help them move out into the world as good people?
Mostly, do they really know how much I love them? How much I think they are amazing people?
If you are a Pre-Mommy or Pre-Daddy, remember that you aren’t just making a decision to bring a sweet baby into the world. The first few years will test your physical endurance. Nap when you can and help each other out.
I strongly suggest a Tag Team approach to sleeping.
Because they will fly by, the first few years, and as I look back now at my Pre-Mommy self I long for those times. They were, unbelievably, the easiest in my life as a parent.
Lauri Walker writes about the realities of raising four kids (including two teenagers): the good, the bad, and the hilarious. She is a wife, the daycare lady, and a Baseball Mom who adores her crazy family, making pretty things, and she lives on Coca-Cola. Because caffeine.
Lauri currently writes the weekly Most Hilarious Parents on Facebook round-up for Perfection Pending and she is a contributing writer to the same. She has appeared on Scary Mommy, Mamalode, Bluntmoms, MomBabble, and more. Lauri’s writing was also recently published in the new anthology, The Unofficial Guide To Surviving Life With Boys by Tiffany O’Connor and Lyndee Brown. Find her on Facebook Instagram Twitter Mam