Before I had children, I knew exactly how I was going to parent them. I knew the relationship I was going to have with my boys and the relationship I would have with my girl, and I knew that we would love each other unconditionally and I would support them in every decision they made, and play all day when they were little, and hang out with them when they were teenagers, and be the matriarch and legacy of a strong family and the rest is history.
Of course, this was all before I had kids.
And then I had my son. And then I had my other son. And then I was raising a toddler and a newborn and my whole “play all day” plan went to shit. And then I had my daughter. And then I was raising three children under six and my whole, “I know what I’m doing” plan went to shit because there is no way you can do it all, and hold everything together while raising three children under six, one of whom is a newborn and doesn’t sleep ever (and I mean, E-V-E-R) because she apparently wants nothing more than to torture her new family like the sweet girl that she is.
And so here I am now; three children who are 12, 10, and 6. They sleep now (insert angels singing) and are pretty self-reliant and can do all the things like tie their own shoes and wipe their own butts, but parenthood is nowhere near easy. Instead of a day filled with chasing babies and toddlers and lost sippy cups, the days are filled with fighting siblings and hormonal attitudes. Testing the boundaries from my oldest, IRRATIONAL DECIBAL OF VOICE VOLUME from my youngest, and my poor sweet middle—he just craves attention but goes about it by trying to annoy both older brother and younger sister. So my day starts with patience and ends with “GET TO BED! I’VE HAD IT AND EVERYONE NEEDS TO BE IN BED NOW!” on.the.daily.
My biggest challenge in parenting lately has been my oldest. I love him so much it hurts my heart. I love him so much that all I do is obsess that I am losing him to this black hole of middle school- hormonal-almost a teenager-defiant-attitudish-but please still scratch my back mom- seventh grade angst. And since he’s my oldest and I haven’t traveled down this path yet, I worry that I’m handling it all wrong and ruining him for life and he is going to move out at 18 and not tell me when he meets The One and elope and have kids and only call me on Mother’s Day because The One reminds him to, and The End.
Seriously, this is what I think because A) I’m a bit crazy and B) I’m genuinely scared that I’m ruining him. I don’t know how to handle the attitude. I have adopted the “choose your battles” mentality with him because if I didn’t, we’d be locking horns from sun up to sun down. (Well, now that he sleeps until 11, I guess it would be more like four hours past sun up to sun down). If I breathe wrong, if I ask him a question that he doesn’t feel like answering, if I don’t hear him over the mumbling, if I try to decipher what he mumbled and decipher incorrectly, if we are out of bagels or toaster strudels, if he is starving (which is always), if he is tired (which is always), it always ends the same: I start off patient and understanding of this hormonal angst because I remember it well, but quickly slide to psycho mom in about 5.6 minutes and then he’s mad because I’m psycho mom and “the meanest mom EVER and don’t ever talk to me again!” (insert eye rolling and mumbling of epic proportions). So I do what every rational mom does: I ground him for life. At this point, he’s grounded until August. I finally stopped adding more weeks because it obviously is not working so now we are on “you can earn your weeks back if you just act somewhat civil to us” mode.
The point here isn’t how we are punishing him, or how he reacts, it’s just that I miss my son. I miss the sweet boy he used to be and when I catch glimpses of him, my heart melts. I know that my job as a mother is to reassure him that no matter what, he is loved. His actions and tone of voice might not be liked very much sometimes, but he will always be loved. I can distinctly remember being annoyed with my parents for simply being home when I was that age, so I do get it, I really do, it just doesn’t make it easier. I also know that I am responsible for creating empathetic, kind, responsible human beings that will be of value to society when released from the safety of our home. I think our world will be OK with this one because apparently he is an angel for all people outside of this house. So, we’ve got that going for us.
I’m trying. I really am. I’m reading books, I’m scouring the Internet for articles, I’m trying new parenting techniques and I’m calling my parents saying, “What in the hell am I supposed to do?? Help me, parents!” It all boils down to this is not something I was prepared for—there is no What to Expect When You’re Expecting: The Eye Rolling and Mumbling Years book for parents to read when they are expecting. These years just sort of sneak up on us and we are left to fend for ourselves, grappling for answers, hoping we are doing it right.
I guess this is the age. I guess I need to grin and bear it, love him unconditionally, be stern when I need to be, and choose my battles. I need to hold onto hope that he won’t elope with The One and only call me on Mother’s Day because she reminded him to. I need to hold onto hope that he knows how much he is loved, how very much he is appreciated and valued in this family even though he gets annoyed when I tell him this. I need to get better at deciphering the mumbling and realize that he will eventually enunciate his words again.
I should be a pro at this when my other two get to this stage.
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