There are eight years between our eldest and youngest sons (with two girls in between). Our youngest recently turned 13, which means that my husband and I will have spent 15 years – a decade and a half, roughly 5,475 days – parenting teenagers before we tap out in 2024, not that I’m counting.
I actually (mostly) enjoy being the mom of a houseful of young adults and almost-adults. They are smart and interesting, and every day they make me laugh. But whoever told me, all those years ago when I was wrangling a houseful of little ones, that it would get easier was a bold-faced liar.
What I wouldn’t give now to be able to schedule their play dates or coax my kids into submission with just the promise of an extra episode of “Backyardigans.” How I would love to be able to physically move them out of harm’s way or strap them into their carseats and just drive them around until they stop fussing.
Yes, in many ways having small children was easier, and I loved those years. In fact, though I wouldn’t trade my teenagers for all the world, I am one of those moms who would gladly go back and do it all over again. Since I can’t go back, I sometimes have to remind myself that it wasn’t all sunny days and cuddle-time. I have to remind myself that every phase of motherhood has its joys and challenges.
When that doesn’t work, when I’m really longing for the simpler days of life with little children, it helps to stop and think about all the things that weren’t easy about having small ones and all the things I’ll never have to do again now that all my kids are big. Things like:
- Catch vomit in my hands
- Be used as a human napkin
- Simultaneously nurse a baby and feed a squirming toddler
- Hear “Swiper! No swiping!”
- Sing “The Wheels on the Bus” all the way to the Gulf Coast
- Interrupt a conversation to smell another person’s bottom
- Get up in the middle of the night and step on a wet diaper – or a Lego
- Fish something out of another person’s mouth
- Bargain with someone to get her to eat
- Eat any place that doubles as an arcade
- Live with the shame of just throwing a towel over the spot in the bed where someone peed in the night
- Assemble a doll house at one a.m.
- Have the panicky realization that we’re only an hour into a 10-hour road trip and our car’s DVD player just stopped working
- Try to sneak money under the pillow and pretend it was there all along
- Cut grapes in half
- Hide in my closet to eat the last cookie
- Hear the words, “Hey kids! Wanna watch a show?” and know that was foreplay
- Calm someone down who is hysterical because his sock is twisted
- Go out to dinner with my husband only to eat our meals in shifts
- Fall asleep reading “Blueberries for Sal”
- Be frantically shaken awake because I fell asleep reading “Blueberries for Sal”
- Count to three to get a response
- Spend half the morning running errands before someone tells me I have spit-up down the back of my shirt
- Carefully examine the contents of a diaper in hopes of finding that penny
- Watch even one more episode of Barney
Of course, none of these minor annoyances ever really lessened the joy of parenting small children, just as none of the worry and stress of raising big kids lessens the joy of watching them grow into adults. No, parenting big kids might not be a cakewalk, but I won’t wish even one of those 5,475 days away. I know from experience how quickly they will be over and how much I will wish I could do it all again.