I’ve come to the conclusion that parenting little children is easier than parenting teens and adults. I don’t mean to scare any of you away from having children, and I certainly don’t mean to make you think sending your children to boarding school at the age of 11 is a good idea – tempting though it be.
When children are infants they take a lot of time, and it’s all hands on. First-time moms are often shocked when I tell them newborns take eight to twelve hours per day to diaper, feed, bathe, and soothe. “How can such a wee one take so much time? Don’t they just eat, sleep, and poop?” moms ask. “Well, not really.” In retrospect, I’ll take the midnight feeds, the endless changing of diapers, the cuddling and soothing any day of the week, thank you very much.
As they become toddlers and preschoolers they continue to demand a lot of time. Mostly, a parent’s job is to keep the child fed, which is a continuous endeavor; clothed, also a continuous endeavor due to their tremendous creativity in making messes and since so many kids think it’s fun to disrobe and run around in the buff; and safe, which requires a constant, vigilant eye. Every mom knows that quiet children are ‘into something’ and it’s usually not good.
When they are teens, however, they start to play their ‘autonomy’ card. They tell you only what you can interrogate out of them, and you’re never quite sure if it’s the ‘whole truth and nothing but the truth’ or if it’s what they think you want to hear. You have to become a master detective, learning how to watch and listen for clues, and chances are you’ll miss some no matter how attentive you are. This is the hardest part of all. You’d gladly trade the busy-ness of their childhood for the sleepless nights spent worrying about something you know is not quite right but can’t put your finger on. This is the point in this article everyone who is over 25 years should be phoning their parents to apologize for all the stupid things we put our parents through when we were teens.
Then, when our kids are adults (and I’ve written about this before), there are the episodes of being ‘blind-sided’, when skeletons emerge from closets, when the poor decisions of teen and young adult years come back to haunt – and as a parent all you can do is try to hold your heart together to keep it from breaking into a million pieces as you watch your adult child struggle with things you can’t possibly help with. You can’t undo the past, and neither can you offer healing for the future. All you can offer is love.
Yup. It was easier when they were little. When a band-aid, a kiss, and a cuddle solved all their problems.