Friday, September 14, 2018

Seasons of Parenting

I read the FTSF post on Facebook this week which was "10 things about the changing of the seasons...". The first thing that came to my mind was how the seasons of parenting change. That seems to be on my mind a lot lately as my now teenagers are growing and changing just as fast as toddlers do, it seems. I brushed it off, though, because I usually don't have much time to write these days and, while I still love writing here in this space, it has gotten pushed far to the back of my priorities shelf. 

However, speaking of seasons, it's hurricane season and I ended up with a quiet day at home today thanks for Hurricane Florence. (That will probably be the only thing I ever thank her for!) I live in central NC and, fortunately, as Flo has approached our coast and made landfall, she has weakened. Original predictions, though, had her coming in as a Category 4 and having a huge, devastating impact on our state as far as 300 miles inland closer to where we live. With that earlier forecast in mind, schools closed for today fearing the worst. Since then, the predicted path has changed and the storm actually came in as a Category 1. There will still be flooding and significant damage, for sure, but I now have this lazy day at home to write a little blog post. 

So, focusing back on the seasons of parenting, here's how it breaks down in my mind:
  1. Expecting - This is the stage when you are just expecting your first child. You are blissfully unaware that you have no idea what you are getting into and that you will not have a sound night's sleep again for the next 18+ years. 
  2. Newborn - You have brought your bundle of joy home and are now delirious with love for this tiny human. However, you are also sleep derived, confused, constantly worried, and have most likely defaulted to yoga pants and ponytails as you have no time for showering or make up. 
  3. Toddlers - When you're in this season, you are knee deep in potty training, tantrums, and baby-proofing everything to make sure your sweet little angle doesn't ingest a bottle of Mr. Clean or take a headlong dive down the stairs. **This stage is often complicated by combining it with the newborn stage if parents add second and third children into the mix. In that case, you are in the sleep deprived newborn stage and the hyper vigilant toddler stage all at the same time. Good luck! 
  4. Elementary  - In this stage, you are in disbelief that you precious cherub is old enough to go to school and you shed tears as you watch him/her tote that ginormous backpack into the classroom where they will be with someone else more hours in day that they will be with you (at least awake!). Secretly, though, you are looking forward to a little time for yourself. This stage also involves considerable paperwork - all the school forms, school fundraisers, permission slips,  . . . . . .
  5. Older elementary - By this stage, you have gotten used to dropping them off in the carpool line. Instead of crying and savoring snuggles in the morning, you are constantly saying "Hurry up!" and sticking a granola bar in their hand as you rush them out the door. Hopefully, they are doing most of their homework on their on with just a few gentle reminders, because you will soon realize that you are, in fact, NOT smarter than a fifth grader due to the fact that's not the way you learned to multiply or apply commas. The kids are somewhere between "Hold me, Mommy!" and "Don't you dare kiss me in front of my friends!" Bedtime is pushed back closer to 9:00pm and your grocery bill is consistently rising in order to satisfy their constant need to snack. 
  6. Middle school - Hormones, homework, and mood swings - oh my!! You spend hours and hours in your car chauffeuring kids to all. the. things. 
  7. High school/teens - You've somewhat gotten used to the hormones and moods swings - you can now take them in stride and, occasionally, even predict them. You actually kind of miss all those hours you spent in the car because, now, they can drive themselves and you don't see them much anymore. But you worry - every second you are not with them, you are worried about them in a whole new way. There are new stressors, too, like college decisions, car insurance, and dating. You also laugh at the you who thought they ate a lot when they were a few years younger - these teenagers can put away some food! 
  8. College  - I'm not quite here yet, although I can hardly believe that I will be in less than two years. I imagine this stage is a grand mixture of pride, loneliness, and uncertainty. I'm just getting used to my oldest driving herself and I already feel like our time together has been drastically reduced. I can only imagine the vacuum I will feel when she goes away to college.
  9. Young adults - Obviously, I'm not here yet, either. I envision a time of travel for my husband and me while our kids are independent adults. I am certain I will miss them immensely, but my house will probably be a whole lot cleaner, too! 
  10. Grandparenting - My own parents have tried to describe the feeling of being a grandparent, but it is apparently a feeling that is tough to articulate. An overwhelming love, but one that is different form the way you love your own children. I can only suppose that watching your own children experience these stages themselves is quite an exceptional experience. 
I should also mention that these seasons often overlap. What seems like a long time ago and also just like yesterday, I dropped my oldest off for her first day of kindergarten with a toddler tagging along and a two week old newborn in a carrier on my chest. Now, my oldest is a teenager who recently got her driver's license, while my younger two are still in middle school. Having come this far in parenting, I would say that no season is easier than another. They are all just different, each with its own unique challenges and joys. 

What season of parenting are you in right now?

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Don't Assume My Teenagers Are Making Me Miserable

"You have three daughters?? Wow! Watch out for those teenage years!!"

"Your daughters are how old? I bet you have your hands full!"

"I bet there are a lot of tears and slamming doors in your house!"

"They're adorable babies, but I bet they'll hate you when they're teenagers!" 

I've been hearing comments like these for years now and, when my daughters were little, they had me pretty terrified of what the future would be like. Now, with a 16, 13, and 11 year old, I think it's safe to say we are firmly planted in the teenage years and we'll be here for a while. 

You know what? It's really not that bad! In fact, I have friends and relatives with toddlers and newborns. While I'm more than happy to snuggle their little ones and even change a diaper or two, I'm also happy to hand them back over and come home to my house full of teens where I can have a conversation that does not involve cartoon characters and, then, sleep soundly through the night.

I'm not going to lie. There is definitely some eye-rolling, some door slamming, and, as my teens would say, some "salty" text messaging happening in my family these days. Trying to anticipate mood swings is like trying to predict the path of a hurricane and emotions run high from time to time. If I'm being honest, though, I'm just as guilty as they are on occasion.

That's not the entirety - or even the majority - of our interactions, though.  

There are also lots of laughs, smiles, and hugs. Now that they are older, we are able to have real conversations about real things. We can offer each other advice, encouragement, and comfort in frustrating situations. We help each other out- whether it's choosing the right shoes to go with an outfit or math homework that even I can't figure out. The good moments outweigh the bad ones by far, so I'm kind of tired of hearing all about how awful teenagers are! 

In general, if your'e old enough to be parenting a teen, you are probably well aware that they have pressures today we never even dreamed of 20-30 years ago. There is the constant pressure of social media - looking a certain way, being a certain way, having the "right" friends, and having the "right" stuff. They cannot escape stories of school shootings and mass violence no matter how hard we try to shelter them. When my oldest was just 14 and at the very beginning of high school, people were asking her where she wants to go to college and what she is planning to declare as her major. She's trying to get good grades, rack up some service hours, and make sure to have some extracurricular activities that will look good on a college application - all while she's suppose to already know exactly what she wants to be when she grows up?!? Not to mention the raging hormones that they cannot control no matter how hard they may try. They are also experiencing lots of new feelings about other people and this great big world they were not familiar with just a short time ago and coping with those emotions takes a level of maturity they may just barley be beginning to reach. It's a lot for kids - yes, KIDS - to shoulder and, since they are just kids, they are still trying to figure out how to cope with all that stress.

As adults, we don't help them by setting our expectations so low and just presupposing they are automatically going to be unpleasant, disrespectful humans when they hit teenage-dom.

Maybe, they are just living up to (or down to) what we have all told them we expect them to be. 

Maybe we should try to understand the pressure they are under and cut them just a little slack. (That does NOT mean abandoning the rules and letting them go wild!)

Maybe not all teenagers are monsters. 

If you're currently raising toddlers, I'm here to tell you that you don't need to dread their teenage years nearly as much as people may tell you you should. Sure, parenting teens can be tough, but, hey, raising toddlers isn't all sunshine and roses, either, right? There's no universal law that requires teens to be terrible, so you shouldn't just assume that they will be any more difficult at 15 the they are at 5 - there may be different frustrations, but not worse. In fact, you might actually enjoy them as teens if you head into those years with a positive attitude. 

If you are currently raising teens, I am a firm believer that kids will embrace our attitudes and expectations. If those are negative or full of dread, then you will reap exactly the behavior you are sowing. If you can, instead, view your kids as real people with real pressures, but also with beautiful, valuable gifts to offer, you will see those gifts shine through and the teen years will be a lot more positive for everyone. 

Will there still be mood swings and eye rolling? For sure! Lots of it will come from them and plenty will certainly come from you as well. How about we try to focus on the positive moments, though, and let those be the ones that define what it means to raise teenagers and watch them becoming the unique, amazing people they were created to be. All the teenagers I know are actually pretty awesome people if you just give them the chance to show you.  

Monday, July 23, 2018

Why I Keep Dropping the Dishwasher Ball

I was in the kitchen getting ready to make supper on Sunday evening. The sink was full of dirty dishes, as usual, so I decided to unload the dishwasher and re-load it with the dirty plates, cups, and utensils before I began cooking. I opened the dishwasher and realized that I had loaded the dishwasher with messy dishes the night before, but had, once again, neglected to hit the start button. I cursed under my breath just as my husband walked through. 

"Did you forget to start it again?" he asked. "Sometimes, I really worry about you, my love!" he chuckled.

You see, it's a running joke at my house - me forgetting to start the dishwasher - because it happens quite frequently. In fact, it seems that at least once a week I find myself in this same predicament. 

Hitting the button should be the easy part, right? So, why do I keep forgetting this tiny, simple little thing?

Well, it's because I've got a lot of balls. 

Ahem. I mean, I’ve got a lot of things going on - a lot of proverbial balls I'm juggling. 
I read a blog post recently that contended the majority of the "mental load" in a household rests on the shoulders of the mom. I would have to agree. Now, don't get me wrong. My husband has plenty of things to juggle, too. He is the primary breadwinner for our family and that rests heavily on him, I know. Although I do work part time, I do not have the amount of work stress he does. Of course, he is also helping with some household things and dad things, too. 

However, when it comes to "the daily grind" of running a household and a family, it's mostly on me. I'm the one making the appointments, planning the menus, cleaning the house, doing the shopping, and trying to figure out how to get everyone where they need to be. When school's in, you can add to the list filling out all the forms, sending all the emails, washing the uniforms, making sure the homework gets done, and even more scheduling and transportation logistics. Did I mention I have job outside the home as well??

For us, it's not like one day after we had kids we sat down and said, "Here's a list of all HIS responsibilities and here's a list of HERS." It just happened this way. Partly because his work requires a lot of travel, but mostly just because this is the way it is. It's the same in most (but not all)  of the families I know. The moms are the ones juggling all (or at least most of) the balls. And, it's exhausting.

So, yes, occasionally I drop a ball or two. Sometimes it's the ball with the appointment I forgot or the friend I’ve been meaning to call. Sometimes, it's the house cleaning ball or the ball with the instructions for that diet I meant to try. It might be an email I forgot to send, a blog post I never found time to write, or a book that took me way too long to finish. Often, it's laundry that didn't get folded or crumbs that didn't get mopped up. And, yes, quite frequently it's that damn dishwasher ball that gets clumsily fumbled. 

I'm not perfect and I’m not trying to be. I got over that a long time ago. I am, however, trying my best to keep juggling all these balls and make sure that at least the most important ones don’t get dropped. The dishwasher ball?? Well, I figure those dishes will still be dirty tomorrow, so I’m not going to worry about hat one too much. 😜 I'll just have to pick up that ball and try again. 
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