Seems like yesterday I was changing diapers, while today I’m explaining the term “suicide bomber.”
The thrilling part, that no one explains to you before you produce offspring, is that it’s a constantly changing challenge. As your kids metamorph, so must your parenting.
At first, parenting is oh so physical. Babies are lousy at taking care of themselves, so it’s up to parents to do everything for them. Once babies evolve into toddlers, the physicality bumps up a notch with the advent of the never-ending chase game — precipitated by that dangerous combination of self-propulsion and no awareness of the laws of gravity.
Constant parental vigilance gives way to emotional and intellectual training, which never ends. It includes having to explain suicide bombers to my 10-year-old after she heard the term on NPR.
I often explain to friends with babies that gratifying change is coming. If you’re feeling like the diaper changes, feedings and sleep deprivation are never-ending, I tell them, know that it will end.
Your toddler will hit those milestones, thus changing your life (again and again). Potty training? It will happen. As our elders love to say, “Your kid won’t graduate from high school in diapers.” Diapers and all that accompany diapering will become a fragrant memory. One of my happiest memories was of the day I gave away our changing table.
Self-feeding will happen too, probably sooner than potty training. The ability to eat an entire meal without dropping food on the floor still hasn’t developed in my kids, but at least they no longer fling applesauce around the dining room (on purpose).
Leaving the house becomes easier as your kids get older. Suddenly, you can say to them, “Get your shoes on and go get in the car.” And they do it — all by themselves. All that carrying and courting back pain becomes obsolete. I vividly remember the day when I taught my youngest to buckle his seat belt. I no longer had to lean over his car seat, struggling with straps and buckles every time we went anywhere. Hallelujah!
A trip to the grocery store is now a breeze. I don’t have to pack a bag full of diapers, snacks, sippy cups and miscellaneous supplies for a trip up the street. I still keep a couple of water bottles and some paper towels in the car, but I’m free of the dreaded diaper bag. (I don’t care how hip and modern it is — it’s still a diaper bag.)
Enviro-spouse and I are in the late stages of what he calls, “a parenting sweet spot.” In other words, our kids are done with diapers but still pre-adolescent (though my girl’s getting closer each day to the hormones-gone-wild stage of life).
Just a few years ago, I’d lament the approach of the school-free days of summer. I’d fearfully anticipate the long hot days filled with high-pitched whines of boredom, the reek of diapers in our un-air-conditioned home, and the constant vigilance necessary when toddlers are in proximity to water.
Now I look forward to those halcyon days of freedom from schedules and school. I still get irritable with the heat and the occasional, “What are we going to do now, Mom?”
I can write while they play outside. I can sit beside the pool and read a few paragraphs before I feel the need to check the water for bobbing heads. My daughter not only feeds herself, but she can use both a microwave and a toaster oven and make her own lunch.
Of course, after years of doing so much for my kids and of watching them constantly (scenting danger on the wind like a hound dog) I have to let them go. I have to accept that I no longer know where they are and what they’re doing all the time. Freedom has its own challenges.
I’m looking forward to my sweet spot summer. I just hope my daughter’s hormones wait a few more months to kick in.
Anne Fitten “Edgy Mama” Glenn writes about a number of subjects, including parenting, at www.edgymama.com.