Parents, as my kids get older and more settled in to elementary school life, I find myself having the same conversation with more and more mothers: How are you handling this parenting gig?
What do you do when they ask you to do yet another activity that they may very well quit? How do you handle it when your kids start refusing to do homework? What about when they roll their eyes at everything you say? And then what do you do when she comes home crying because she wasn’t invited to that one very big deal birthday party?
How many activities is it okay to be doing during the school year? When do you start making them fold their own laundry? Or doing the dishes? Did I miss that? Am I too late? Do you call the other mom when there’s a fight on the playground? When there are ten fights on the playground? Twenty?
How exactly do you figure out what kind of mom you’re supposed to be?
When you first have a baby, you know it’s going to be hard. I mean, you never really know how hard, but at least you’re somewhat prepared. You’ve read the parenting books. Talked to the people. The sleepless nights, the crying, the pooping, the worry that you are doing every single thing wrong and your baby is never going to walk or talk or learn how to use the toilet. You know about that.
Next up are the toddler years, with the tantrums, and the nap fighting, and the throwing things and the endless amounts of Peppa Pig. Those things come at you full force. It’s hard. But you knew it was going to be hard, because you saw it coming. Someone on Instagram told you so. You saw a meme. And you think, I can’t wait until they go off to school, because then everything will be so much easier.
Well, fellow parents, I’m here to tell you it’s not easier. And you might not see it coming. Parenting big kids is hard, too; it’s just hard in a different way. In my experience, nobody really talks about the difficulty of parenting older children, because by the time we get there, we think we’ve got it figured out. The basics at least. The walking and talking and potty training. Maybe even the sleeping. We don’t have to worry as much because all of the REALLY hard things are behind us. Aren’t they?
We may have been holding our collective breath waiting for the toddler years to be over, but I don’t know one mom who has had a chance to exhale. Because they become big kids so fast, and then we’re left wondering why our toddler parenting methods don’t work anymore. We can’t just pick the little buggers up and take them back to bed when they get out. And we certainly can’t just walk into the third grade and tell the naughty boys to stop goofing off because my little angel is having a hard time concentrating. I mean, I guess you could, but DON’T.
Do we, as parents sit down and say to ourselves: “I think I’ll be this type of mom now”?
Of course not. Because we already are. Because you don’t really decide how to parent. You just do it. And then one day you stop and think, well sheez, maybe I didn’t handle that very well. Maybe I can be better. Or different.
And then the question becomes – what is the right way to be?
How do you handle the homework fights, the eye rolls, the constant nagging to get your backpack or I will drive off without you. Do you actually drive off? And then if you do, when do you come back?
The big kid years are so fun, don’t get me wrong. You can talk to your kids, take them out for a meal without worrying they are going to throw pasta at the table next to you. You get to help them discover the world, to really see the little people they are becoming. Parents get to encourage their children’s love of art, or science, or reading. You get to prepare your child for adulthood. And that is an honor.
Sure we rely on our instincts, and we all do the best we can. But just because they go off to school in the morning doesn’t mean it gets any easier.
Helicopter mom, tiger mom, lawnmower mom, free range mom, crunchy mom- how about just normal mom. Is there such a thing as that?