That stage of life? It’s gonna be hard, you guys.
I’m talking right now to all of you who still have little ones at home. Non-teenagers.
We think this stage of life is hard. I do, at least. I even wrote an article about it. I mentioned how right now, we are dealing with things like whining and fussing and complaining. Sibling rivalry. Decisions about schools and vaccinations (remind me to NEVER mention the “V” word again in an article, mkay?). Marriages and relationships are strained, taking a bit of a beating. We are balancing work and home and family and friends and commitments. Our children never stop talking. They need us for EVERYTHING. It’s hard.
And yet…something is coming for us. It’s right around the corner. The very “Something” that we sometimes find ourselves pining away for, is the exact same “Something” that I suspect is actually going to be so painfully difficult, when it actually arrives. Oh, the irony of that.
That “Something” is…our kids growing up.
This current stage of life is difficult, yes, but…what about the next one?
In that stage of life, they’re gonna get their hearts broken. It’s inevitable. We didn’t even want them to give their heart away to begin with, but since they DID…we didn’t want it to get broken. And we are going to want to mend it…more than anything…and we won’t be able to. And that’s gonna be hard.
In that stage of life, they are going to hate us sometimes. They may even think we hate THEM and are trying to “ruin their life,” and we are going to look at them and think, “are you CRAZY? Are you insane? Do you realize, child, that you are my actual heart, walking around on legs? Do you realize that there is actually NO love that could ever compare to the love I have for you? You couldn’t possibly remember, and probably don’t care, but I am the very same mama that carried you around inside of me for damn near close to a year. I have held you and snuggled you. Dried your tears and wiped your butt. Cheered you on at every event, and been your biggest fan your entire life. I do not hate you, and I’m really sorry if the fact that I won’t allow your 16-year-old self to spend Spring Break partying at the beach with your friends leads you to believe otherwise. Yes, we’ll know that we don’t hate them, but the fact that they think we do, and hate us back for it? That’s gonna be hard.
In that stage of life, we are going to suggest, “Hey, why don’t you stay home and let’s have some family time tonight,” and they are going to inform us, over their shoulder, as they are walking out the door, that they already have plans with their friends…and then we will hear the door slam, and we will remember and long for the days where they just couldn’t get ENOUGH of us…they were next to us, on us, in our face, in our space, every moment. Giving us their grubby hand to hold, their squishy cheeks to kiss, and their Spider Man pajama-clad selves to snuggle…and now we just hear the engine revving up outside as they pull of. That’s gonna be hard.
In that stage of life, it’s entirely likely that a new girl is going to replace you, mama, as leading lady in your son’s life, and you, daddy, as your daughter’s main man. Ugh. That’s gonna be hard.
In that stage of life, we are going to watch them make mistakes. And there’s a good chance it’s not gonna be mistakes that are easily remedied. It’s going to be mistakes that have life-changing repercussions. We’ll want to choose FOR them…but we won’t be able to. Oh, we’ll probably tell them our opinion…but they likely won’t care. We will even say things like, “I made the same mistake when I was your age, and I just want better for you!” Or, “I used to think that way too, but now I realize…” They will think they are some sort of exception though, and that our experiences aren’t really relevant to them. We’ll want to shake sense into them, but when we can’t…and that will be often…we will have to just sit back and pray. That will be hard.
In that stage of life, we will see stories on the news or on Facebook of car accidents involving teen drivers, and drinking and driving or texting and driving and fear will clench our hearts to the point where it’s almost unbearable, and we will want to insist they stay home and never drive anywhere, but that won’t be healthy or reasonable, so we will watch them pull out of the driveway, and we will go on about our evening, maybe even go to bed, but we won’t ACTUALLY go to sleep until we hear their key in the lock. That will be hard. And exhausting.
In that stage of life, we will spend at least SOME portion of our time looking back, and wondering, “could I have done something different? Better? Should I have picked up on this problem earlier? When they were still little? Was I the best parent I could have been? Did I make the right choices?” Sometimes we won’t like the way we are forced to answer those questions. And that’s gonna be hard.
It will be a stage of guarding against, navigating through, protecting from, finding out about, and dealing with unhealthy relationships, proper boundaries, addiction, body image, self -worth, sex, rebellion, identity issues, bullying, social media, life-altering moments, life-altering choices, and body-altering piercings and tattoos.
In that stage of life, on some otherwise uneventful Saturday morning, we will find ourselves loading up the car with their belongings, driving off…maybe close by, maybe far away, and UNloading them. This task will go by much too quickly (similar to their entire childhood, we will muse) and so we will find ourselves stalling and shuffling our feet, in a dorm room or apartment parking lot, holding back tears (or heaving sobs), until eventually we can’t anymore, and we will leave. Go home to an empty bedroom. Their life will be beginning, and we may be feel like ours is ending. It won’t be, of course.
No, it’s going to be a lovely new stage of watching them spread their wings. Seeing the fruit of the last 18 years worth of hard work. There will be so many proud moments. Our relationship with them will blossom in a whole new way. Likely, we will come to enjoy our new found freedom. It will be so good.
But man, it will be hard.