Wednesday, January 11, 2023

How We've Switched From Parenting Young Kids To Teens


Photo from July 2013, with a one, three, and five year old; on a walk around Grey's Lake in Des Moines, Ia. I remember this because it took us two hours to walk around the lake. Last week we did the same path and it took us fifteen minutes. 

Once upon a time, what feels like long ago, we went out in public with our three young children. We'd have great adventures around the city, on road trips, in nature, and all around, doing it between nap times and early bed times. We were used to hearing phrases when we were out and about: "woah, you have your hands full!" and "they're so adorable....I hope you get a nap in too!" That happens when you have three kids close in age. Now we're about four years out of that phase and only hear comments on how cute our black lab (who accompanies us everywhere) is. 

I didn't give much thought to the transition our family went through. It was natural. Kids age, do us parents, the cuteness goes away, and life changes. I was actually thoroughly enjoying the kids to tweens to teens phase. It meant I could leave the house without worrying about a babysitter. It meant extra hands to easily help with cooking, chores, and everything in between. It meant we could go on cross country road trips with very few complaints, close to zero bathroom emergencies, and no more worrying if a child missed a nap. It was, and occasionally still is, bliss.

I took twelve days off at the end of last year for the mini's Christmas break. I had big plans with them: creating pottery, painting, hiking, shopping, going out for lunches, days of exploring and enjoying our time. Then they dished it out. "I don't want to go anywhere today." "Can we leave in the afternoon? I don't want to wake up early." "Can't we just get food to go? I want to be in my pajamas all day." "Do we have to hiking? It's cold out." "I just want to stay home by myself." "I don't want that for dinner. I'll make something else instead. Can you go to the store and get the stuff for it?" "Let's just stay home and watch Grey's Anatomy." All of these were said with their noses in their phones, as they text, messaged, and played online games with their friends.

It hit me in those moments. We were passed the stages of wanting to go places with mom (and dad). We were passed the stages of all day adventures. We were in the stage where sleeping in takes precedent over a spectacular sunrise, friends are the most important thing, and having their space and time was preferred even over a free lunch at their favorite restaurant. We are in those teenage years, with the ten year old acting more like a teen than the (nearly) fifteen year old.

This phase of parenting is new. It's filled with compromises and negotiations. There's more eye rolls, more grumbling under breaths, and more talking into things than I anticipated. I've had to pivot and accept that how I prefer to live life may look different for a while. It means more weekends at home, so they can hang with their friends and do (what seems like endless amounts of) homework. It means not planning anything until noon or later. It means weeknights running my kids (and their friends) around. 

It took us fourteen years of parenting to get to this phase. I feel like I'm finally being rewarded for ALL of those early wake ups in their younger years. I'm now allowed to sleep the day away if I wanted to because no one is bothering me for anything other than internet passcodes and to make sure I bought what was requested from the store. I can't say I'm in love with the stage we've hit. I really enjoyed the sweet spot, where my minis were old enough to do things for themselves, but still wanted to spend time with me. When mom could still plan a perfect day out and everyone went along with it. Well, mostly went along with it. We're still talking about kids here!

We have switched from parenting young kids to being the parents of teens. That in and of itself is enough to scare me right out of my pants. I remember what I was like as a teenager, the stupid things I did, my attitude, and my ability to sleep the day away. I have no idea what I'm doing at this point, just as I had no idea what to do during those other phases of their lives. I do know I do what feels right and what feels right in this moment in life is sipping coffee with my kids as we chat about current events in our pajamas and agree to not go anywhere for the day as long as we can go for a hike later in the week. It may not be exactly how I like to live life, but if anything, I hope I'm showing them how to compromise and live harmoniously in a mid-sized family. In my mind, that will suite them well in their life.

 I have no tips on how to make the switch from parenting young kids to teens. Maybe once I've had more experience under my belt, I can share what works and what doesn't. I only know that it seemingly happened overnight and out of nowhere, although I've been expecting it. We tend to take it day by day, issue by issue, feeding off of what the minis throw at us and our own feelings. Just as with any other good parent, I only hope I'm getting it somewhat right for them.

Above: The last recorded picture of my minis and I. Every picture since has been a struggle. Below: A common scene in our house; we've recently had to put time limits on phones and electronics.