Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Dear Parents of Kids Younger Than Mine

Dear Parents of Kids Younger Than Mine,

I know what you're thinking- because I used to think the same things. You look at my kids who are seven and eight and you think, "I'm not ready for my little one to be that old! It'll be terrible." They're so big, so independent... so many adult-like behaviors as they try on new words and actions that they pick up at school and from the Disney Channel. (Sidenote: Hey, Disney Channel? Can we get a show or two that doesn't feature kids with smart mouths? Please? My kids get enough of that at home.) I know what you're thinking: Older kids aren't as great as babies and toddlers. I used to think that, too. Boy was I wrong. Apparently, the parents of school-age kids knew some things and were holding out on me. I'll spill the secrets here.

What I wish I'd known about school age kids when I was worrying about my babies growing up:

1. The worry: They'll be too big for me to hold them in my arms.
The way it is: You'd be surprised how well my kids still fit in my arms. You'll be amazed at how it feels when they're big enough to hold you in theirs.

2. The worry: They won't need me anymore.
The way it is: True, they don't need you for as much of the mundane stuff. At seven and eight, my kids can get their own pajamas out and give themselves a bath or shower. Certainly potty training is long over. They get themselves up in the morning. They can fix their own breakfast so  Doss and I can sleep in on a Saturday morning. They're even pretty good at working the Keurig for us. BUT! That doesn't mean they don't need us. Actually, the things our kids need us for are more meaningful now. Friendship conversations and homework and board games. Their physical independence actually allows them to rely on us for more emotional guidance. The smiles and coos of a baby at bath time were great. But the heart-to-hearts in the car on the way to school are even better.

3. The worry: They'll say things in public that will embarrass me.
The way it is: Yep. Better learn to laugh at yourself now. This one's true. BUT! For every embarrassing thing your child says in public, there are at least a hundred meaningful, insightful, or charming things they say at home. The good outweighs the bad here- it's still worth teaching them to talk.

4. The worry: They're not going to like what I want them to like.
The way it is: Yep. Sometimes. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing. You're going to teach your kids all about the things you like- they'll be exposed to it through you. Why not let your kids expose you to something new you might actually enjoy? My son got me into Dr. Who; it's turned into one of my favorite shows. My daughter made me watch a Barbie show with her once- have you ever watched those things on Netflix? They are full of tongue-in-cheek humor. I actually rather enjoy watching them with her. Your kids can teach you more than just how to catch projectile vomit in your hand if you let them. (Oh, you haven't learned that one yet? You probably will.)

5. The worry: They're going to argue and talk back.
The way it is: Sometimes. They will argue with you the way you model disagreements to them. So choose your fighting words (and tone) carefully. This is where you mother will look at you knowingly and think about how what goes around comes around.
It's true you're the parent and the authority figure. And your kids should be respectful. But sometimes, they have insight into a situation that you don't have. Listen to them.

It's pretty great- but then, I'm biased because my kids are amazing people. It is a privilege to get to be a part of their childhood. Seriously, I have no idea how I got this lucky. But I promise, you parents of babies and toddlers: the school years are pretty great, too.