Monday, May 11, 2009

It Just Gets Harder? Really?

Does parenting get "easier" as kids grow up?

My friend Moreena over at Falling Down Is also a Gift said:

You can always recognize parents of elementary school kids because they look so pitifully grateful, as if they're hearing Louis Armstrong singing "What a Wonderful World" all the time inside their heads. But not in a crazy way. Or rather not in an entirely crazy way.

And why do those parents look so gosh darn grateful? It's because their kids are finally wiping themselves (if not always completely successfully and don't ask more about that la-la-la)! And their kids are capable of having conversations that are both amusing and enlightening and often even concern a topic based loosely in reality! And they are so very well-mannered (no food has been inserted in a nose for at least a few months)! And their kids are keeping regular bedtime hours!

The school-age years are like spring after the long, weird, sleepless winter of baby-toddlerdom.

I really do love the way she writes. And in this case, I love what she's saying even more. You know why? Because no one else says that!

In fact, every single other parent of older-than-mine children I've ever met insists that "it just gets harder" when I answer a question about one of the challenges of infancy/toddlerhood/potty-training/whatever.

Why do they do this?

Have they forgotten what it's like to parent a wee one? Or are they just heartless? Don't they realize that sometimes we're we're just barely hanging on, and the thought that it will get a little better, that our children will one day entertain themselves for more than 30 seconds and not have to be carried (screaming) through grocery stores is what helps us get through our days?

I get that it's never easy. I get that the work is never done. But it changes. It doesn't necessarily get harder. I'm not looking forward to enforcing curfew or dealing with Mean Girls and crushed spirits. I'm not looking forward to spending my entire week running from one scheduled activity to the next like I'm one step ahead of a fire.

But is that really harder than being completely and totally everything to another human being 24 hours a day?

Sure, if you've completely romanticized how hard the first few years can be.


Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

The whole "it gets harder" thing (or even "it never gets any easier") is one of my biggest pet peeves, because it has been so totally untrue for me. Guess what? It's easier. Right now. Tons easier than when my kids were babies and toddlers. Easier. Easier. Easier!

RobMonroe said...

I keep getting "you know she'll be in middle school before you know it" and the like. Guess what - I've chosen to love the fun stuff and the hard stuff as we get to it. To hell with the future, I'm making sure I live in the now when it relates to Abby. I'm sure it will go faster than I think, but I'm doing everything I can to be sure that I remember it all!

I'm looking forward to poops like the one we got Sunday to be in the toilet instead of my hands via diaper!

Tracey said...

Now we're just dipping into the 'school age' years, but I am actually enjoying it so far! Yes there are things like homework, but you also get things like GIRLS calling up to talk to your (well, my!) boy who is only six mind you!

I love what he comes home and tells me he learned. I love looking in his backpack and seeing what he did that day. I love that he now seems to be enjoying making art for the first time.

Yes, it is challenging, but aren't ALL the stages of parenthood challenging, just in different ways? I for one am loving that every person in my home can now wipe their own butts on their own. :)

Anne said...

My kids are 13 (on Thursday), 10 and 6. I don't think it gets harder just different. There isn't the constant dead tired feeling that comes with baby & toddlerhood but it can be crazy keeping up with activities. Some of it has to do with the number and types of activities you choose for your children. We have less than 2 weeks left of school and are trying to cram a ton of activities into into those two weeks.

The challenges are much more external and you have much less control (not that you have much control of a toddler).

I have to say that while I did enjoy the baby and toddler years the school age years are much more fun. I just love the ages my kids are now.

Of course, I'm still wiping a bottom. Hopefully that will end in a year or so.

Brian said...

They say it gets harder because people tend to be self-centered and present-centered. What is happening to "me, right now" has a lot more immediacy than my situation last year, or your situation now, or your hypothetical situation next year.

So the average person will usually think their current problems are worse than the equivalent problems they had last year, or the problems you're having now.

Anne said...

I think Brian is totally on to something.

Mine are 3&6 and I feel like a new woman now that the worst of the physical labor of toddlerhood is passed.

I also think that--duh--some parents are better at some ages and, furthermore, as someone else said, it can be easy to exhaust yourself by signing up for a billion activities, making these glorious years of pre-adolescent childhood into a blur of carpooling.

Not I, said this little red hen.

Krupskaya said...

I have to say I'm amazed at how hard a 10-year-old is. I always thought that once they were old enough to reason with, it would be cake.

Hahahah ha hah ah h ahahahaah a hah a hah aha hahha aha hahaaaaaaaa!

Whew. In any case, I find dealing with school-age kids more exhausting mentally, while a baby or young toddler was more tiring physically (because of BFing, less sleep, etc.).

Sarahlynn said...

MPJ, excellent. Excellent! It's true for me, too. IEPs, two different schools, two different music classes, gymnastics classes, interests: still easier!

Rob, that's an excellent attitude.

Tracey, hah! Also, awesome.

Anne, also a difference of 3 children vs. 1, I think. But I agree; I tell everyone "THIS is my favorite age" at every age we've hit so far. I loved them as babies, as toddlers, now. Each age has its wonders and challenges . . .

Brian, yep, exactly. It's so short-sighted. That's why journaling and blogging are such good ideas. It's harder to revise history when there's a written record.

Anne, yes! Something miraculous happened to me when they each hit 2. But I have heard moms say that they want to give them away at age 2, while others say they only want to start at age 2 . . . or some other age altogether. It seems rather silly that everyone would enjoy or be good at the same parts.

Krupskaya, cake?!! I doubt my mom thinks it's cake now, and hers are 34, 31, and 29, all married! I found baby and toddler years mentally exhausting, too, but more in a numbing kind of way. And re: school, there is so much new and challenging stuff with school, but at least there's (usually) a . . . break, a moment to prepare and fortify during the day. Except in emergencies and for homeschoolers. (Perhaps this difference isn't as stark for parents who work outside the home and already had daycare. I know I did better when "toddler" Ellie was in daycare and I worked part-time.)

ccw said...

I think an infant is the most difficult thing in the world. The level of exhaustion is beyond anything that I have experienced in 13 1/2 years of parenting.

That being said I do feel that older ages can be more difficult. Teen L is mouthy, the ADHD and school kill me, and there are the added factors of sex, boys, alcohol, etc that come up at school. Fortunately, these are not problems that I am personally facing but it scares the hell out of me that they are realistic issues for her age.

On the other hand, I'll take her running of the mouth over Not-So-Baby H's incessant whining. G-d, it makes me want to run away.

Sarahlynn said...

I think that just about nails it. It's not that it's "easier" or "harder" because it's apples and oranges.

The thing that's absolutely unbearable right now? That will probably change. And then something else will drive mama up a wall.