It occurred to me the other day that there are seasons of parenting …
The young parenting season is all about survival. Everything is new and hard. Many days you feel like you are drowning, and, in a way, you are. Lack of sleep and perpetually needy little people sap your energy and make it impossible to think about anything else but keeping your head above water.
In the middle years — young children into adolescence — things even out a little. Sure, it’s still hard. There is homework to help with, endless school forms to fill out, and you put so many miles on your car ferrying kids to school, activities and birthday parties, that you feel like a taxi driver.
And then come the teenage years. If someone told you that you would long for babies when your kids became teenagers, you would have laughed. Then it happens, and you remember that faraway look in a friend’s eyes, who had a teen when you were complaining about a baby crying in the middle of the night.
“Wait until you’re up in the middle of the night waiting for your teenager to come home,” a friend would say, punctuated by a weary laugh. “And you won’t be as young as you are now, you won’t have the energy. Oh, and the fights, the arguments. Teenagers really know how to push your buttons.”
“When does it get better?” I recall asking.
“College,” she answered. “When they realize what it’s like to be on their own, when they realize how much you did for them and they appreciate you a little more.”
Which brings me to the fourth season: College. I’m not there yet, but, the parents I know who are seem pretty happy. They have their independence, and so do their children, but they genuinely enjoy spending time together when their kids are home on school breaks.
Believe me, I’m not wishing any of these seasons away. Next year, I will have one foot in each world, the teen years and college. It will be interesting to see the contrast. And there will hopefully be many seasons beyond that — young adulthood, first jobs, first apartments, starting a family …
I hope I will be there for all of them. Like everything else in life worth doing, they all come with their own unique challenges, and they will all, at moments, leave us wistful for the simplicity of a baby crying in the middle of the night.
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.