Did you ever want to punch anyone who told you this when your kids were babies? OK, not REALLY haul off and hit them. I will admit, though, that as a sleepless, first-time new parent in 1999, I just wanted Alexis to get bigger, older and do stuff like sleep. I wasn’t getting the enjoyment of living in a constantly sleep-deprived state.
Now, almost 14 years later, though, I can’t believe how that time has gone by in the blink of an eye, and understand why people told me such things years ago (but feels like yesterday). And I struggle with how to enjoy them in their current ages and developmental stages, while letting them grow up. My “baby” turns 7 this summer. I’m going to turn 40. Really? When did THAT happen?
As much as having a teenager has been a maddening adventure, I am trying to treat it that way. An adventure. It’s all how you frame it, I decided. You can either go nuts with the eye-rolling, attitude, and all that, or appreciate that you now have a self-feeding and sleeping, free-thinking, young adult with opinions and whatnot. In one of my all-time favorite movies, “Road To Perdition,” I recall the expression that sons were put on this earth to trouble their fathers. I sometimes think girls might have been put on this earth to debate their mothers, and learn to become women in the process.
I see a lot of the same stuff from my teenaged years in my oldest. The experimenting with hair, makeup, clothes, as a means of self-expression. Getting up early, doing hair, makeup, making sure the outfit looks good without it looking like any time was spent on it. My minimalist, roll-out-of-bed, no makeup self doesn’t really see the point of all this when sleep is a possibility.
She’s got some strong opinions on stuff, too, and I am impressed at times with how much she’s learned about subjects in order to form those opinions. Other times, I probe her to learn more about subjects, or to consider that (warning…sounding like my parents here) she just doesn’t know because she hasn’t lived through, or experienced certain situations.
When she rolls her eyes back, or shuts down, I try to back off. I try to remember that the confidence I have now, and the opinions and beliefs I hold, come from that same sort of self-exploration, and investigation about things that fire me up. She’s going to have to learn and experience things herself, not just take my word for it.
With my youngest, I think I can appreciate where she is more than any of the other siblings, and am more laid-back with her than any of her siblings. While, yes, you hear about parents just being plain tired when that last kid rolls around, I think it’s more than general parenting fatigue. I know she won’t be this age again, and a few kids in, am very much into choosing my battles, and trying to enjoy that time with her, rather than letting my opinions and experiences get too much in the way. I was much more a “rule follower” with Alexis, as well. Now, I can go with the flow a lot easier, and have maybe matured as a parent that way. She gets to make a lot more of her own decisions than her older siblings did. I see now that just letting her “be,” and not constantly helicopter-ing over her, is actually a good thing.
Alexis did some running when she was younger, and was very good at it. It wasn’t her thing, though, and I was sort of bummed out when she decided to stop running and focus on dance exclusively. Now, years later, the irony is that I am so used to dancing daughters, I was quite surprised when my youngest, Ava, said she wanted to quit dance to pursue all the things *I* enjoy so much. Swimming, spending time hiking and trotting on the trails, and even asking to take kickboxing. By backing off altogether, and letting her decide, she actually came to me with a very clear opinion regarding what interests her.
And, my middle daughter, Kaia, who was SUCH a challenge in her early years, is one who is incredibly enjoyable now when I embrace where she is right now. She’s very inquisitive and a little goofy, and in that ‘tween stage when she thinks her parents are pretty cool. I’m going to enjoy it while she’s here. I know it won’t last forever.
What’s my point to all this? To paint an overly-sunshiney picture of motherhood? Heck, no. There are days when my kids make me nuts, moments when I’m really angry at how they’re acting, or just want to hide out and not have anyone call me “Mom” for a day or two. In framing those difficult, awkward ages and stages as unique and challenging adventures, though, it makes it easier for me to deal. In turn, this makes it easier for the kids to deal with me – that old fart who they just can’t fathom ever being a kid or feeling the things they’re feeling now. If I can change my perspective on how I look at them, while they’re young, maybe it’ll help them look at their old mom a little differently as well.
Karah Levely-Rinaldi is a Grand Junction mother of four and an ultra-marathoner.