Monday, August 6, 2012

What to never say to a mother of young children

I was at the bank the other day with Mason, Hannah and Ethan in tow. I noticed an older lady admiring them with that nostalgic smile, so I smiled at her, just being friendly. She asks me how old they are. I tell her 1, 3 and 5. She replies,"Oh, I had three too, but they were all one year apart!"

I took a moment to imagine that and screamed silently.

She then adds the typical,"Well, I'm sure you've got your hands full."

I say, "Yes, I do".

Then she adds this gem,"Well, you think it's hard now, wait until they're older. Mine are 18, 19 and 20 now. This (points to my brood) is easy". She chuckles, which makes me want to punch those rose colored glasses right off of her face.

I ended up just smiling at the lady and said, "Oh no. Please don't say that. It's hard enough right now". But I didn't say it the way I wanted to; the way I should have said it.

What did I really want to say? This is what I really wanted - and should have - said.

So, your 18, 19 and 20 year old adult children are harder now? Really? In the physical sense, it's bullshit. Are you still wiping their asses? Bathing them? Carrying them from room to room? Do they follow you around the house screaming and crying? Do you have to constantly break up fights over building blocks?  Do you take them to restaurants and have a very hard time enjoying your meal without playing mediator and goaltender? Are you having to chauffeur them around town to endless activities and errands? Do you need to wrestle with carseats, carriers and strollers whenever you want to take even the smallest trips out? When having a conversation with someone are you constantly being interrupted, pulled on or jumped on?

What? Was that a no?

Okay. So maybe you meant the emotional aspect? Okay, let's see.

Are you unable to go to bed and sleep in when you want? Unable to have time to yourself regularly? To breathe? To relax? Do you have somebody insist on watching you while you take a shit or any other numerous bathroom tasks that are usually done in private? Do you need to make sure there is a babysitter in the house with them if god forbid you want to go out by yourself or with your spouse?

No to that too, eh? Oh, but what was that? Wait until they are teens and talking back, staying out too late, driving too fast, having sex, doing drugs, wanting money?

Okay. I can understand teens being difficult, but before we move on any further, please understand this troubled teen phase is commonly found in western cultures that infantilize young people for as long as humanly possible. Surprisingly (or not) this "troubled teen" hysteria isn't found in other cultures that are not inundated with TV media, constant social media and of course, the infantilizing. Though there are certain cultures (obviously the one I live in is one of them) that contain the perfect storm for the legendary miserable, turbulant teen years and is totally out of the hands of parents, I do believe that some parents do have a problem with infantilizing and letting go of their precious bay-bees which no doubt contribute to teen terrors. And then they cry foul, and try to "warn" parents like me.

That being said, regardless if my future teens are terrors or not,  I can assure you that I will be able to handle them better with a full night's sleep, less ass and nose wiping and much more me time than I get right now. We will get through it. I mean, I have no choice in the matter anyway, do I? Yes, we do live in the US, but no, teens do not scare me and I do not think raising them is going to push me into a dark corner, rocking back and forth.  In this culture I can see teens maybe being a little more difficult from a purely emotional perspective, but that's it.

But then they grow up anyway, right?

Saying your legally adult children are more difficult? I just can't wrap my head around that one. Someone, anyone please tell me how adult children are "harder" to parent than young children. Everything I have ever heard was,"They want money", "They are going away to college", "I can't fix their problems".

To that I say bring it on. I care about a lot of people. They all either want money, are going away to somewhere or are struggling. That's life. And when my children are grown they will also be other adults I care about (deeply) in life. I will help them when I can. I will be there when they need me (like, really need me, not the "but ma I know I shouldn't have spent that last $20 on bullshit but I did so can you spot me some dough until I get paid?" crap). I refuse to fret so much for nothing and fall into that stereotypical "but mother's always worry" bullshit.  What will worrying about how Junior is doing at college do for you besides increase your anxiety and blood pressure and take away from the joy in your own life? What will giving Junior another $20 do after he foolishly spent the last $20?

You're right. Nothing. It will accomplish absolutely nothing.

So, to all of you older folk who have independent adult children out in the world who like to say the "it gets harder" line to parents like me; I'd like to say I don't believe you. Of course children are never easy -  no matter what the age - but to say they get harder even when they have flown the nest? I call bullshit.

I'd like to say you are obviously wearing your rose colored glasses, reminiscing about your youth and your children when they were little and fat-cheeked and looked up to you like you were the only person in the whole wide world. They still piss you off, but now you don't get that added bonus of sloppy kisses and a tiny hand reaching out to you. Okay, I get that. You miss it. I will admittedly miss it too. But you know what I won't miss? Every single example that I posted above.  Do you think it's a coincidence that marital happiness increases after the children leave the house? I mean, c'mon. I would love to throw three tiny children in your house for, not a day or even a week, but a full month. Then I want you to (attempt to) go about your life as it was without these tiny children running around, demanding, whining, leeching energy and lifeblood from your veins. Good luck maintaining your leisure time, sex life (if there is one at this point) and overall intimacy with your partner that you had gained back after your kids left. I assure you that you'll miss it and want it back. The unrelenting drudgery of the early years that older people seem to forget whenever they see a cherub faced child in their proximity will soon flood back to you, and then let's see how you remember those early years. I bet you'd breathe a sigh of relief and shout victory once those three tiny children were out of the house again.

So stop it with the nostalgic crap; Nostalgia is always misleading and it definitely lies.

You probably think I don't know what I am talking about; that I have no older children so I am being naive blah, blah, blah. To that I say no, I am not being naive. Just realistic. I obviously don't have older children (yet), but I do have children and I do know my personality as an individual and as a parent.

Maybe you forgot what it was like to live life for yourself. Maybe you were one of those martyr types who lived life completely for and by your children and lost yourself in all of it, and when they didn't need you so much anymore you made their problems your problems. Maybe I am just one of those awful, selfish people but I for one cannot wait until they are out of here. I will love talking to them as adults; seeing how they have grown into the amazing people they will be, how their minds work, their personalities and their dreams. I can't wait for that. Yes, I am enjoying the now; their little hands and feet and kisses... but I will embrace the future too. And one thing I most definitely will not do is walk up to a tired mother of young children and say that it will only get harder from here.  Instead I will smile and tell her that her kids are adorable and yes, she will be able to take a shit in peace again someday.


1 comment:

Amelia said...

Ain't that the truth!!

Great post!!!