I’m a mentor in a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group. I love going into those meetings and hearing the woes of mothers of tiny people and being able to cheer them on, remind them what they’re doing matters, that it is a season, and all of the mothering years aren’t spent in complete and utter sleep deprivation. One day they’ll be bargaining with their children to get them out of bed, not trying to get them to sleep just a little longer. Now I’m parenting tweens and teens.
I want to pat their sweet young(er) hands and tell them those famous words of wisdom from Dickins … “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” In so many ways, it did feel like the worst of times when I was right in the middle of it. But there were so many sweet parenting moments in the mix as well … precious bedtime snuggles, “Momma, houwd you’s” and the way they know you really can make everything better even when you know you can’t.
Now I’m the mom of a teen and tween. The demands have changed. It’s no longer about nursing marathons and two-year-old tornados and five-years-olds asking impossible questions all-the-live-long-day. Why, indeed, child-o-mine?
I knew the demands on me as a mom would change as my children got older. I anticipated them gaining independence. I knew parenting teens would come with its own set of difficulties. What I wasn’t prepared for was how isolating being the parent of older kids could be.
When you’re the parent of tiny people you embrace community naturally and crave a place to be heard by someone who’s in the trenches with you. In fact, you’re happy just to have a grown-up to talk to, right? After all, every mom can commiserate over sleep deprivation, the cost of diapers and how hard it is to get picky little people to eat.
When you put a bunch of moms of tiny people together in a room, they’ll be busy talking sooner than you know it, building on the common ground of shared experiences. But that changes as your children get older.
I quickly discovered that it was no longer enough to celebrate that our children could kick the ball. Instead, all of us moms were trying to figure out things like what position will my child play best, should they play competitively, how much is too much to spend on a sport – both time and money, reading up on scholarships and which leagues have the best chances and the list goes on. And if we make the wrong choice, it’s possible we’re messing up our child’s chances for a college education and career. Geez. I just want to go back to saying “Yay! You kicked the ball!”
And what if you are parenting a child who is “average”? After all, not every child can have the highest GPA in their class. In an age where every single achievement is recognized online, what about the moms who are just happy that their child passed all of their classes?
The thing about these kinds of questions is that ultimately we all arrive at different answers backed by different reasons. What’s okay for your family may not work for mine. As the issues and choices we face as parents diversify and our children become complex beings with big opinions and multiple responsibilities, community becomes harder and harder to find and friendships harder to nurture. Gone are the days of playdates at Chick-fil-A. Instead, we show up to softball games and push ourselves to make small talk to the mom sitting in the bleachers beside us.What’s okay for your family may not work for mine. It doesn't need to create division, though.Click To Tweet
The older my children get, the more I understand that even though I feel like we’re doing a pretty amazing job parenting our kids, (well … I feel like that once in a while at least) I am in no way an authority on how to parent anyone else’s children. And I’m rarely an authority on parenting my own. Somewhere along the way, parenting became less like the game of Candyland and more like a game of Chess, involving deep strategies and a careful balance of defensive and offensive moves.
I used to spend my days wiping snotty noses and picking up the same box of toys over and over and over. Now I spend my days making sure homework gets done, taxiing children to practices and classes and games and jobs, and helping plan for mission trips and summer camp. I worry about things like peer pressure, drugs, and dual enrollment.
As a mom of a teen and tween, I don’t have nearly as much time to cultivate friends. And not nearly as much common ground to build on when we are thrown together with a few extra minutes on the sidelines.
Parenting older kids can be very lonely, especially if you’re walking around with a ruler in your hand all of the time, trying to figure out how you measure up to the other moms and how your kids measure up to their peers. After a lifetime of having measureable goals and being graded and evaluated, it’s easy to let that become a standard for motherhood as well.
These are not just the worst of times … these tumultuous teen years … these are the best of times, too!
Let’s put away the rulers and find the common ground rather than focusing on all of the ways we’re so different. Even though it might feel like our journeys have become so much more complex and we each have different parenting philosophies, we can and should still support one another and cheer each other on.
In a season where it would be easier to disengage, I’m trying hard to nurture the connections I have, to lay aside the rulers and remember we’re all still moms. We need each other.Somewhere along the way, parenting became less like the game of Candyland and more like a game of Chess...Click To Tweet