The busy teenager life…

As many mothers lament each new phase their child enters – as they slowly shed childhood – I rejoice.

And let me tell you, the next stage that Hallie is entering could not come at a better time: Driving. She is approximately 2 months away from getting her driver’s permit (which really means nothing to me because she has to have an adult in the car at all times) but it does mean she’s only 8 months away from an actual driver’s license. A license that allows her to drive to and from her various activities.

I think life has a natural flow and that flow involves busy teenagers. So busy that mothers are left to rejoice when the child they once help walk, finally sits behind the wheel and backs out of the driveway on their own.

I feel like I spend most of my afternoons running children around, but Hallie is by the far the one I cart around the most. Due to COVID, sports at the school have been a little jumbled and a little unconventional which leaves her running to and from the school right now multiple times a day because her winter school sport is overlapping her spring school sport. It’s a lot of to keep straight. The only advantage to all this back and forth is our car time. It’s our time to chat. Catch up. Talk about the day. I’m there for it.

I just wish I was there for it less times a day! 🙂

The energy to mother…

The older my kids get, the more mental energy it takes to “mother” them. I’m not just talking about feeding them and running them to their activities and making sure they brush their teeth.

I’m talking about the mothering that takes place every time I pick up my daughter and we chat in the car and sit in the garage afterward talking about the day.

…when a child wants to talk through their schedule selection for next year.

…when someone can’t find their special water bottle.

…when I’m trying to figure out why a child seems to be a little more emotional than usual.

…when I’m torn between two kid’s interests or activities.

…when a child is learning to be independent and it’s painful to watch them stumble.

…when a child is hurt and feeling left out.

…when I know a child needs something but I just don’t know how to give it to them.

…when I desperately want to hear a child’s frustrations and they can’t communicate them.

Mothering is carrying the weight of each child’s concerns, worries and luckily their excitement and it takes so much mental energy. It’s the mothering that is never talked about prior to having kids, instead it’s the “Oh you wait and see” approach!

Mothering is different for everyone but this picture just about sums up my mothering right now – cleaning tennis ball fuzz out of my daughter’s eye after taking a ball to the eye socket during her tennis tournament. Nursing her eye and then switching to the encouraging mom to help her remain mentally strong as she carried on through the tournament.

There is rarely a dull moment mothering!

The spoiled baby…

I was on a walk when I ran into a family in the neighborhood. They have adult/married children as well as two kids still at home. While we were talking I saw a glimpse into their family dynamic (and what I assume to be similar dynamics to most every family.) The adult children were criticizing how the parents were parenting the youngest child – which was so different than how they were raised. They were confident their younger sibling is going to get whatever he wants and never have a curfew. They told sob stories of how strict their parents used to be and how they’ve paved the way for an easy life their younger sibling. Sound familiar?!

Of course everything was said in jest – but you could feel the accusation in their voice. It made me start thinking about my youngest. The older kids already think he gets away with everything – I kindly disagree, although I do recognize we parent him differently; partly due to experience and partly due to circumstance. I wouldn’t label it as “tired” or “lazy” parenting. More like a “does this really matter in the long run” and perhaps a more humble approach in admitting when we’ve made mistakes. But that doesn’t stop the older ones from spelling out how easy his life is going to be.

This is what they don’t see. They don’t see that he’s stuck at home with me all day when everyone else goes to school. Aside from Hallie (being the oldest) no kid has had all his playmates go to school and leave them home alone.

They don’t see that he’s stuck jumping from this practice, to this game, to someone else’s game and back to another practice. While my older kids got to play at home and in the neighborhood after school and on the weekends, he is at the soccer field. Or tennis court. Or basketball game. Trying to entertain himself with a package of grapes!

They don’t see that when he goes to high school, the focus still won’t be on him as the older kids start adult lives and families and we’re pulled in more directions.

They don’t see that he doesn’t go to the zoo or the children’s museum or the science museum like they used to – at one time we had annual passes to all of them and went on a regular basis!

They don’t see that everything he has is a hand-me-down from them.

They just see him as the youngest and how spoiled he’s going to be. Don’t get me wrong, being the youngest can have some major perks – but there is no perfect position in this family! And yet, he will probably spend the next 50 years trying to convince his siblings that he’s not spoiled and that his parents were hard on him too!

Motherhood…

We sat around the dinner table tonight and I tried to explain to my kids just how hard and yet just how amazing motherhood can be.

It is frustrating on multiple levels and there’s nobody quite like kids to tell you just how bad you are at something (although my kids are great at telling me in the bathroom what a great wiper I am!). And yet when Briggs is calling my name after he’s woken up from his nap (thank you blessed child for still taking a nap) my heart swells 5 times seeing him sitting there holding his stuffed bear with bed head and face creases.

Motherhood is everything good and unfulfilling in my life – quite the paradox! I read once that motherhood is taking time for yourself while still giving all of yourself to your children (and I like to add making sure your spouse’s needs are also met). And of course, mothers are never sure if they’re doing it right so it easy to second guess and doubt yourself as a mother…and then as person… and when it’s really bad you may even question your existence. I’ve been everywhere on that spectrum. And yet, at the end of the day my kid’s think I’m great (I’ve got a stack of homemade cards today that would confirm that) and they forget, or just don’t see where I fall short. I think it’s God’s grace in motherhood which I’m eternally grateful for.

I’m not sure what I pictured motherhood would look like on me – but it’s nothing I ever imagined it would be or even anything I could’ve dreamed of. Each year gets better – hopefully I can still say that after sending kids off to high school!

Bath time…

As a young mother, living in Wisconsin with two young children, I loved bath time. It was more than making sure my kids’ hair was washed – bath time was an event. It was something we looked forward to, it stretched to an hour or two. There were toys, and bubbles and games. My kids loved this time to splash around in the tub and I loved that we had an indoor activity that didn’t require bundling up and shoveling snow off the car.

And then we moved to Arizona and I didn’t feel so cooped up in the house. And we had another kid. And another. And even one more.

I’m not entirely sure when it happened but somewhere along the way, bath time was no longer an event. It became a sprint to see how fast we could get those dirty feed scrubbed so their sheets didn’t end up filthy.

My younger kids have very little experience with bath toys and bubbles and I’m not even sure how that happened!

I was talking with a friend about this last week so its been on my mind. But there was one night last week where Briggs had an hour before bed time and he was kind of roaming the house not really playing with anything. I asked if he wanted a bubble bath with toys and his eyes lit up as if he was given a bonus scoop of ice cream.

He sat in that tub for almost 45 minutes and just played. He sang, he splashed, he talked to himself. By the time he realized the water was cold, he was done.

The younger kids in our family may go to bed later than any of my other kids did at that age (which my older kids think is a serious injustice) but they’ve also been deprived of the simpleness my older kids had. The days of bubble baths, children’s museum memberships and roaming around the zoo.

You do your best to raise your kids the same and yet even at this stage I see just how hard that can be. Bottom line – everyone needs more bubble baths in their lives.