We are more than halfway there. More than 11 years in and less than 11 years to go before we are done with this parenting thing. Not really done of course. I’m told that this is kind of a lifetime gig but in less than 11 years, God willing, all of our children will be high school graduates and hopefully making some progress towards independence. It seems like these days kids are living with their parents longer but at least in theory we will no longer be the responsible parties?
It’s kind of a weird but great place to be. No more diapers or spit up. No more massive tantrums in public places, only in the privacy of our own home thank you very much. They are all mobile and can transport themselves from point A to point B, without back breaking labor on my part. They are all at the age where they are old enough to do things independently-ice skating, skiing, swimming, art projects, etc.-but young enough that they mostly still want to do those things with their family. And I get to participate too! I’m not sure why we tried to do any of those activities when they were younger. Who was actually enjoying it? Not I!
Despite the fact that we’ve entered into that time of life where my sole purpose seems to be shuttle service I do get to go places by MYSELF occasionally. Gone are the days when I would rather chew off my arm and feed it to my lovely children than muster up the strength and energy for a trip to the grocery store. Quick errands are no problem. They can handle themselves for at least 15 minutes. If anything they’re better behaved when I’m gone because they know there isn’t anyone there to referee for them.
Prone to insomnia, seven plus years of erratic night time schedules were not my friend. Once the kids were sleep trained I had to sleep train myself. Thank you Deepak Chopra. Other than the occasional vomiting episode nighttime troubles are usually my own.
Speaking of vomiting we almost never have to clean it up. There was one spectacular middle of the night episode last year but otherwise, nothing. They are old enough now that they know when it’s coming. Also, we pay them a dollar every time they make it in the toilet. Money well spent.
Playdates are actually are more fun than work now. Before when other children would come over to play the amount of labor and supervision required increased exponentially. If one child was able to get into a moderate amount of trouble the amount created by two was off the charts. These days though we invite another child over to play and all of a sudden my children have disappeared, off to entertain themselves with no help from me. Coffee anyone?
The best part is now that my children have developed their own interests and hobbies, that don’t involve using their mother as a jungle gym, I’ve been able to develop a few of my own:
I joined a band- Ok it’s a community concert band filled with more than a few lapsed musicians like myself dusting off their instrument cases after many years in storage. But still, I’m playing music again!
I started running- I never did get the hang of the jogging stroller and once the kids were walking themselves they insisted on being let out. The preschool teacher in me couldn’t bear to hinder their independence and self exploration so I let them. What should have been a 20 minute brisk walk/run instead turned into an interminable stroll. Sometimes I would get some weight training. When they insisted on riding a bike or scooter I was then allowed to carry both the bike and the child back home after they abandoned it halfway in. These days though if I want to get some actual exercise I just leave them at home. Turns out though I don’t actually like to run.
I bought a paddle board- If you haven’t tried this yet I highly recommend it. It might sound like you need some balancing skills but if carrying a screaming toddler in one arm and a 50 pound infant in carrier in the other without falling doesn’t prepare you for this I don’t know what will. I’ve only fallen in once but it’s not my fault the eighty pound dog couldn’t figure out how to get on.
I started volunteering at my child’s school: Now that my children are older I can enjoy other people’s children again. It used to be that I was too distracted trying to keep my children from wreaking havoc and destruction that I couldn’t really enjoy other children. Babies were cute and tempting but my toddler was about to poke them in the eye so we watched from a distance. Now that my kids are older and it’s no longer a matter of survival I can breathe again. Turns out I have mad skills! Combining my previous teaching experience with 12 years of actual parenting I can actually understand these kids.
I started writing: I’ve always wanted to write. Stories and anecdotes would swirl around in my head for days before disappearing into the nether. But who could actually write down a coherent thought before being interrupted by a blood curdling scream? Once I began to write the words rushed out with a wild abandon. I wasn’t sure if I should be proud or appalled of what I had been holding in. Was this fit for human consumption? Ultimately it didn’t matter because:
I decided to stop caring: As a new mom I had very clear expectations for myself and others. I wasn’t going to make any mistakes and my children were going to be perfect angels. I would meet my child’s every need and would love every minute of it. I would be the perfect mother, perfect wife, perfect friend, perfect everything. Talk about a humbling experience. I am by no means a perfect mother, wife, friend, or anything really but I am learning to be real. I’m learning to let go of my unrealistic expectations of myself and others. I’m learning to let go of relationships that are damaging and don’t allow me to be the person I’m supposed to be. I’m learning to find my voice. If I haven’t earned the right to make mistakes and have my own thoughts, feelings, and opinions by now will I ever? Whose permission was I waiting for anyways? Moreover I am recognizing that I am who God created me to be and he has a special purpose for me even if I don’t recognize it myself.
Every once in awhile some well intentioned friend or family member will ask me what my plans are now that the kids are getting older. Will I go back to work? Will I continue to stay at home to cook and clean? The house could certainly use it. Should I go back to school? What will I do with my time? I can only imagine I must look like a deer in the headlights. Do I have to decide right now? Can’t I just spend some more time finding myself?
Existential crisis aside, for now I am going to enjoy this mid-life parenting experience. This time will be over before we know it. I won’t bother with the sports car just yet. The mini-van is great for transporting my family… and my paddle board.