I find myself too often telling young parents that things do not get any better in the world of parenting. Yes, I know you are sleep deprived, have not had a hot meal since you cannot remember when, and the bathroom is no longer your sacred private space. Make no mistake, I would not trade places with you for many reasons. I only worry about what I need when I walk out the door. No more baby wipes (however, I miss them for quick spills), diapers, change of clothing, bottles etc. I can fit all I need for the day in a small purse and when I have to go to a meeting, I get out a bigger tote type purse. If I had to name something that does get better, it is that I have to do less packing and planning.
What is the reason for telling parents that it does not get worse? Teens will still ask, “Why,” Why not,” and tell you that you are just being mean; the difference is you expect those things from your toddler. I had the expectation that when my kids became teens, they’d just simply accept the answer “no.” That is so far from the truth. My patience is thin, my hair is gray, and this is exactly why.
Sleep, I admit, is a little better—until they start to drive. The driving thing is a completely new bag of tricks. On the one hand, you are less and less the unpaid Uber driver who tirelessly shuttles your child back and forth for every event. Bonus points for this new freedom. The other side of the coin is that you worry like no other. You have just put your teen who cannot take no for an answer into a motorized vehicle on the streets of your community. It is hard to understand all of this until the day comes. We survived our first wreck with one of our teens, and it was very scary (no one was hurt, but the car was in bad shape). The result is that I’m back to being the unpaid Uber driver, and our teen is hesitant to drive. I remind myself at moments like this that under our guidance, our teens are learning lifelong lessons. Sometimes, you wonder if all of you will survive, but the sun does come up the next day and we start all over again.
Mealtime is void of the struggles of toddlers not wanting to sit at the table or being so fussy that the food is on the floor. There are other challenges though, like everyone eating at various times. We work on making sure when we are all home, no one is working that we are at the table eating and catching up with one another.
The bathroom is still an issue. I am convinced that we could have a bathroom for each one of us and there would still be the drama of missing items and people hogging the space. We went from walking right on in to locking doors and privacy. I like privacy, but when I am on my way out the door, forgot to brush my teeth and need my toothbrush, gee whiz, just open the door and give it to me already!
Yes, I am that teen mom who tells you young moms of toddlers that it does not get any better—but there are many wonderful things about teenagers. I am unable to find the words to describe those proud moments. College tours, awards in clubs, even just the everyday things they do on their own; I find myself in tears, both joyful and sad, often. Everything from pride to knowing that in two short years, both of my teens will begin new chapters at college and then careers. I begin looking at things in a completely new, fresh way.
The years of sleep deprivation, never eating a hot meal, and always having someone with me in the bathroom are paying off. My senior is ready for college. My junior is busy working on community service and excelling in cross country in the hopes of securing scholarships. My current thoughts are on how to handle having an empty nest, and I am guessing the next bit of advice that I’ll dish out to the mom of teens who is the unpaid Uber driver and struggling with teens who do not understand “no,” is this: the next chapter is just as challenging.
There is a reason that we have babies in the beginning, and we follow our children through the various stages. It prepares us for each new chapter. God knew that each stage prepares us for the next. Everything from being pregnant to sending your child off to college has positives and negatives to teach us perseverance and unconditional love. Enjoy every stage, because raising your baby goes by like a whirlwind. I will need my fellow moms to reassure me that I am going to be OK when my senior packs his car and goes out-of-state for college, and when my junior follows the next year. I will need someone to say, “You made it through all the stages, the sleepless nights, the cold meals, and bathrooms filled with little people when all you really want is some ‘me’ time.”
And, I will need someone to say, “Job well done parent. Well done!”