Imagine that you’re feeling particularly worn down by consecutive nights of child-interrupted sleep and mornings of strapping unwilling children into car seats. An older, more experienced parent notices that you are not your adorable, chipper self, and inquires as to your well-being. You explain in between yawns that you are being terrorized by your toddler and abused by your infant. But instead of a sympathetic pat on the shoulder, you are greeted with a smug and superior ‘Oh, little children little problems, big children big problems. That’s nothing compared to what I am going through….’
Imagine now that you smack that arrogant thing in the face.
How great an exercise was that? We should practice these visualization techniques more often.
I love my kids. I knew fairly well what I was signing up for with each one. But that does not mean that I cannot on occasion vent about being tired or frustrated or overwhelmed. And in those moments when I am hungry for some understanding and compassion, the last thing I want to hear is, ‘Ha-ha, Sucker, it gets so much worse!’
There are really only two words I have to say to these self-assured parents of teens: Back Arch. How many times in the past week have you had to deal with a screaming, back-arching toddler? I’m sorry, what? None? No times at all? Well, then riddle me this –how many cheerios have you swept off the floor today, and of that total, how many were crushed and unsweepable because they were stuck to gobs of peanut butter? How many hours have you spent listening to Ring-Around-the-Rosie on repeat in the car? If you’re not hearing it in your rare moments of sleep then let’s just say you’re not even close to nearing my mind numbing total.
See, I don’t want to fight with you, oh wise parent of teen. I will tell you straight up that I know what you say is true. Listening to my boys discuss bodily functions over dinner is a cakewalk compared to the drama that your teenage daughter brings home. Tucking my kids into bed each night, even with their unending requests for stories and songs, is a luxury compared to wondering where your kids are and if they are making good choices. (But, to point out the silver lining here – your kids can leave! They can up and leave, and you can go to the bathroom with the door shut. Like, all the way shut! But I digress, I’m sure you have it terribly hard).
The emotional and financial stressors of raising older children are no doubt more difficult than anything I have experienced thus far. But, like Aretha, ‘all I’m askin’ is for a little respect’ and acknowledgement that parenting on any level can be challenging (the last part of this sentence was all me. Aretha, call me, we should co-write something and go hat shopping together).
Having a newborn is exhausting and terrifying. Having a toddler is maddening, and in the case of supermarket tantruming, catastrophically embarrassing. (Because of those same seasoned parents who alternately cluck their tongues at my parenting skills or laugh at how much I have to look forward to when this strong-willed two year old grows up and decides that a forehead piercing is the must-have look for back-to-school.)
So I promise to limit my whining, if you promise not to belittle me from atop that high horse you bought for your high schooler to distract her from becoming a gluten-free vegan.
Just nod understandingly, lie that it gets easier, and I will appreciate your wisdom and kindness. And as you walk away I will smile smugly to myself and wonder how you could have been so dumb as to let your kids grow up. How shortsighted of you to give up drooly kisses from tiny people in exchange for young adults who prefer texting to snuggling. Poor, poor experienced Sucker.