Monday, November 19, 2018

No One Tells You The Hardest Part of Parenting

Picture from September 2013 at High Trestle Trail Bridge

No one tells you what the hardest part of parenting is.

Actually, a lot of people told me. Mostly parents to older kids, newly empty-nesters, and grandparents. They just didn't say it flat out. Instead they said things like, "enjoy this time. You'll miss it someday." When you're running on four hours of sleep for the week, your child's wails ringing through your ears, and your toddler won't put clothes on to go to the grocery store, it's hard to believe you'll miss all that mess.

I get now what they were really telling me. They were actually telling me what the hardest part of parenting is. They told me and I didn't listen fully to the words they spoke and how they spoke. The hardest part of parenting is watching your kids grow up and not need or want you anymore.

It's hit me like a ton of bricks lately. It started with me looking at past blog posts of our fun filled weekends around Des Moines. I commented to my husband about how just four short years ago, we'd make lists of where we wanted to go and things we wanted to do with the kids. This was partially to keep our heads straight so we didn't forget and partially so we had a game plan for the days. With three young kids, this kind of organization was a must.

We took a moment to laugh at ourselves and our craziness we were accustomed to "back in the day." That craziness has eased up in the 'let's be prepared to spend an entire day out of the house' and eased into 'grab the crap you need and get yourselves in the car.' Then a lull eased into our thoughts. I suddenly felt down as I realized the reason we weren't making these lists anymore was because our kids were older. We didn't need to do it anymore.

The feeling of dispirit continued into the next day. I couldn't shake it, but I didn't fully understand why the lack of silly lists were bothering me. That night after our youngest's weekly danced class, we were notified practice for the Christmas recital on Saturday morning was moved to later in the day and had a possibility of going longer. I was discouraged because that was our special Mom and Minis Day.

We hadn't had one in quite awhile and I was really looking forward to it. I had even drafted up a good ole list that morning (mostly to help me feel better). My six year old daughter said, "that's okay mom. We can cancel Mom and Mini Day. I want to stay at dance class for as long as I can."

Her older brother overheard the conversation and contributed with, "yeah, we can just stay home all day. I'm find with that too." It felt like I had been punched in the stomach. It hit me suddenly at that moment what the real problem was: my minis no longer cared about a once special day. They could care less if we stayed home and if I was in the background doing laundry. I was no longer their source of fun nor their happiness.

I was not one of those mothers, at least I didn't think I was, who hated having younger kids. I didn't count down the days until they were in school. In fact, I look forward now to summer vacations so I can "have them back." Sure, there were plenty of frustrating days when they were toddlers. In fact, there were many days I couldn't handle my own 3 kids under 4 and shoved one or two of them off on grandparents. There were many days I ran from the house as soon as my husband pulled into the driveway at night. There were many tears from both the minis and myself. But I truly loved it.

This week, as I held a new baby for hours on end, it hit me again. I can't get those days back. My minis continue to get older, more independent, and less dependent on me. They don't want to spend all of their time with me. In fact, they'd like it if I locked myself in my office and left them alone. And that is the hardest of everything I've gone through in parenting yet (thus far at least). The realization that I've known all along what everyone was telling me: enjoy the moments you think you won't miss when they're older because you'll want them back during those hardest days of growing up. 

While watching your kids grow up is without a doubt, one of the most spectacular gifts in life, watching them become respectable human beings before your eyes, it is also one of the hardest. It will sneak up on you when you go to get them a toy that they tell you they've outgrown, when you go to help them with something only to realize they no longer need your assistance, or when you go to kiss them goodnight and they tell you "I don't need a kiss mom, just a hug is fine." In those moments, you know that this is the hardest part of parenting: watching them grow up.