Even though having older kids means I am proportionately aging as well, I will be the first to admit there are a lot of really great perks about being the mother of a mature family namely; no more bottles, diapers or potty chairs.
For all you folks up to your elbows in infant gear and sleeping schedules let me assure you it is possible to survive those early years of parenting. I know because (fingers crossed) I’m beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel. I haven’t had to schedule a babysitter for years, my kids can do their own laundry and everyone is successfully bathing independently.
These are huge milestones, people! I've spent eighteen solid years managing every personal hygiene task and bodily function imaginable. And don't even get me started on how many drinks I've had to pour over the years. Formerly, my children had to come to me and announce they were thirsty. Now they can reach their own cups, open the refrigerator door and pour what they want. Eliminating this task from my parenting job description has added hours to my day. Hours!
But of course the grass isn't always greener on the other side. Instead of temper tantrums you get sulky, door slamming teenagers who, instead of being addicted to their thumb or pacifier, cradle their cell phones and electronic devices with startling efficiency.
So in some ways it is same but different.
When my children were younger the best part of the day was bedtime. No matter how hard I worked, how ragged I ran, or how demanding they became I knew that at 7:00 p.m. every night I would slather my kids with love and kisses, tuck them in, turn out the light and enter twelve solid hours of solace.
It was heaven on earth.
I don't know if it was my awesome parenting technique or perhaps my kids’ subconscious sensitivity to my intense desperation but either way once they were in bed my children slept through the night. I'm not bragging I’m simply telling you how I survived.
Until recently. Those early bedtimes worked when my kids were 3, 8 or even 12 years old but currently I have three teenagers in the house and they are gravely insulted if I ask them to go to bed before 10:00 p.m. weekdays or midnight on the weekends. I, of course, don't like this progressive arrangement at all. As my kids are staying up later and later my 'mommy time' is receding.
Naturally, staying up at night means my kids sleep longer into the morning so it would make perfect sense if I transitioned as well and moved my 'mommy time' into the early morning hours. That would work splendidly if I were, oh say, a morning person.
But even if I could wake with the sun I can’t bring myself to leave my kids unsupervised until midnight. There's the internet to monitor, curfews to uphold and cell phones to collect.
Do I sound a little strict? Perhaps but all I know is my siblings and I caused an awful lot of mayhem after my parents went to bed and while I don't think my kids are nearly as naughty as we were (unless they have me completely hoodwinked) I am very still very hesitant to leave them up late all alone.
So granted, this is a totally awesome stage of life: there are no more diapers, no jars of baby food, everyone can blow their own nose and can tie their own shoes. I’m just so darn sleep deprived like I have infants all over again.
This is why old people drink coffee. Coincidentally I, too, find myself relying more and more on a daily dose of caffeine as a survival skill. My kids are getting older but so am I. Next I’ll being eating dinner at four in the afternoon, snoring in my recliner and forgetting why I walked in a room. Why? Because I’m the mom and I said so that’s why!
Stephanie is a mother to five children ranging in age from 8 - 17 years and is a Parent Educator for the Monmouth-Roseville School District providing support and information to parents with children ages birth to five. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org