I look back on what my life was like a decade ago and realize just how much things have changed. Well, some things haven’t – I am still the mom of three daughters. We live in the same house, in the same city. I drive a minivan and spend a lot of Saturdays at the soccer field.
But life with nowadays also looks a lot different than it did as the parent of a 7-year-old, 5-year-old and 2-year-old. Now I have two teens and a tween. When I see parents with young kids out and about at stores and restaurants, I want to tell them that yes, it does get better. But also, hold on to every day and truly enjoy the stage that your kids are in.
Some things that are different now than ten years ago:
- No diapers, no diaper bag, no bringing little ones into the restroom with me when we’re out shopping. Need a bathroom break? Great! I’ll just be over here, find me when you’re done.
- No strollers. Which means that we’re stuck having to carry coats, purses and shopping bags with us since there’s nowhere to stow them. But I still count that as a plus.
- In fact, shopping is different altogether. Instead of having to drag tired, whiny kids through stores, we simply go our separate ways. If we are shopping together and someone gets whiny – I can just walk away. Have fun, I’ll text you when I’m ready to leave. You can’t just walk away and leave a 5-year-old in a store, but a 15-year-old? No problem. Better yet – I can leave their tired, whiny selves at home if I want to and shop all by myself.
- Umm, teenagers are BUSY! I used to think that life was crazy, but back then I was a lot more in charge of our schedule than I am now. The kids only knew about activities and events that I wanted them to know about. If I didn’t want to take them to something – easy, I simply didn’t tell them about it. Nowadays, they add their own events and schedules on our shared calendar and if they remember, they might even tell me about it.
- Clothing. Ah, the clothing… No longer can I get away with cute matching ‘sister’ outfits. They want to look nothing alike. And my idea of ‘appropriate’ doesn’t always match theirs. Most of the time I don’t have too much trouble with what they want to wear (Abbi hasn’t worn matching socks in over ten years – oh well). But a teenage girl’s idea of cute and fun clothing doesn’t always match mine. On the plus side, two of them are done growing (most likely), so they’re not constantly outgrowing things and needing a new wardrobe every year. Wanting new clothes every season? Yes, but wanting and NEEDING are definitely not the same thing.
Parenting teenagers is definitely a challenge. We’re fortunate that our girls are overall fairly easy. I don’t know if that will always be the case, but so far we haven’t had a lot of discipline issues. Annoyance issues are a different story, but I keep reminding myself (and Ron) that being difficult and testing limits is their job as our teens and tween learn how to navigate a more adult world.
Our job is to prepare them to be self-sufficient, independent and happy adults. As Abbi comes up on her senior year of high school in the fall, we’re reminded more and more that our job to prepare her for adult life is almost over. Not the job of being her parent – she will always need us, but in different ways. It’s hard to go from the mindset of ‘I must control/protect/manage every moment of their lives’ to seeing them as their own unique individuals who need to learn from their own mistakes. In order to learn and grow, they need the freedom to make those mistakes for themselves. But, wow is it ever hard to let go.
Many things about being a parent haven’t changed all that much in the past ten years. I still get bedtime hugs and kisses from each of the girls, although often grudgingly and only Becca wants me to come tuck her into bed still. We still enjoy family movie nights, although the content has changed. The kids and we now share many common interests and fandoms, so can discuss the latest Marvel movie or episode of Big Bang Theory together as a family. We no longer have to seek ‘adult conversation’ elsewhere.
I look ahead toward the next ten years and realize that even my youngest will be (hopefully) on her own and out of the house by then. What will my life as a parent look like as the mom of twenty-somethings?
I’m both scared and excited to find out.