The Myth of Parenting Older Children

 

all five kids

To recap (in case you’re new here – hi!), I have five kids: 17, 15, 13, 10, and 4.

Oftentimes when I express frustration or fatigue as a Mother, I’m met with some version of the phrase, “Well, at least your kids are older.”

I’ve never asked anyone what they meant by that; frankly, in the heat of the moment, I’m kind of a wimp about seeming confrontational or contrary.

But taken in context, it’s safe to assume that these comments – usually offered by friends with young children – imply that things must be so much easier for me because my children are older.

If I think about it, I can understand. When my children were young, the reality of being able to leave them alone while I ran to the store seemed as far off and dreamy as Peter Pan’s Neverland.

Having kids who could dress, feed, entertain, and more-or-less take care of themselves seemed like the heavenly light at the end of the dreary parenting tunnel.

So, I get it.

But…

just like Peter Pan, the idea that having older kids is somehow easier is just a fairy tale after all.

True, now I can shower in relative peace, but…

more often than not, my shampoo is missing, my razor is dull, the soap is used up, and the drain is clogged with hair.

True, now they are not my constant shadows, but…

I’m on constant alert as to where they are, what they are doing, with whom they are doing it, and when they’ll be home.

True, I don’t have to wake up with them in the middle of the night, but…

sometimes they don’t come home until the middle of the night, and I’m up anyway, waiting for them.

True, now I can leave the house on my own for a little bit, but…

I will likely come home to food wrappers and dirty dishes in the living room, furniture re-arranged, the animals unfed, and my youngest running around in a ripe, crusty Pull-Up.

True, now they can feed themselves, but…

they feed themselves all the time, somehow managing to finish off ingredients I needed for that night’s dinner.

True, now they’re old enough to “help” with chores and babysitting, but…

it still requires a great deal of dictatorship on my part to get their “help.”

True, the days of “I hope I’m doing this right” are mostly past me, but…

now I’m consumed with “Did I do everything I could?” and “It’s too late now, I’m out of time!”

Honestly, I wouldn’t trade these days for the early ones – I’ve written before about how much I love parenting my teens! – but parenting older kids isn’t a careless, carefree venture. There are still a lot of complexities, annoyances, frustrations, and challenges to my mental health.

It’s like having a cold that moves from your head to your chest – the discomfort isn’t gone, it’s just settled in a little deeper.

If you are a young mother and feel that I’ve altogether burst your bubble, I apologize. You have many wonderful things to look forward to with parenting older children. But eating bon bons on the sofa and living a life of relative ease are, sadly, not among them!

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