Last week we added another precious grandson to our family. Of course, we immediately pulled out the scrapbooks to see how much he resembles his daddy’s baby pictures. As I was looking through those pages I was reminiscing about how adorable and sweet my babies were. Did I even appreciate how cute they were while we were in the moment? As a grandparent, I know that I need to tuck away every funny thing they say, but as a mom did I realize how fast it would be over? I don’t think so. I just remember cleaning up endless juice spills and resolving squabbles and picking up toys on my way to doing mountains of laundry. It was so hard! And while I was in each stage, I knew that it was the hardest one.
Babies who can’t tell you why they are crying at 3am are physically exhausting. Even though everyone says, “Sleep when the baby sleeps,” you know that you’ll never catch up on dishes and chores if you do that. If they could just tell you what is wrong or if you could find that perfect cure for colic it would be so much easier. That has to be the hardest stage.
Toddlers who throw tantrums over getting the blue cup instead of the red one are emotionally draining. These tiny little humans who can barely talk still have very strong opinions. So. Much. Crying. And potty training? Whew! That is so hard! That has to be the hardest stage.
Then they turn into preschoolers who ask you “Why?” after every sentence you utter. They are curious about everything and sometimes you feel like you just can’t stand any more words—yours OR theirs! That has to be the hardest stage.
When they go off to school, a whole new world opens up. Playdates and sports and homework and programs crowd the family calendar and you often feel pulled in too many directions. That science project that they’ve known about since last Wednesday? It requires a piece of orange poster board at 9pm to finish it. That has to be the hardest stage.
Junior high brings puberty and that’s a whole new thing. Acne is ruining their life and suddenly, parents know nothing. From monitoring their use of technology to helping steer them toward good choices in friends, you have become a real drag. You are not nearly as awesome and cool as their third grade selves used to think. That has to be the hardest stage.
High school just raises all the stakes. Now you are equipping them with a 4,000 pound weapon and instructing them not to text and drive. You are trying to help them choose a career path and college when they are still trying to figure out who they are. Weren’t they just babies a few days ago? And what about that boyfriend your daughter introduced you to last week? That has to be the hardest stage.
Just when you think that your parenting responsibilities are over, you realize that this is a job with no retirement. Parenting young adults is hard because they can do whatever they want but the choices they make are life altering. Now that boyfriend that you thought was a disaster could be a husband! Certainly, THAT is the hardest stage.
Can I give you some hope, mamas and daddies? There really is no retirement plan for parenting, but there will come a day when you’ll turn off the lights and realize that no one cried today. There will come a day when you will watch them cross a stage and be handed a college degree and you’ll realize that you’ve crossed one of the finish lines of parenting. And someday, if you’re really lucky, there will come a day when you’ll hold your newborn grandchild and weep because you have been promoted from the best job you’ll ever have to an even better one.
Hi! I'm Janet and I've been the Director of the Before and After School and Smart Start Preschool Programs at the Troy Rec since 1994. My hubby and I have been married 30 years and we have two grown sons. Each of them is married and blessing us with grandchildren left and right. Life is good even when the nest is empty!