Ever so often, when we meet with parents who have cute babies or toddlers, I watch the husband playing happily with them and my one treacherous thought is - "Well thank God I'm done with THAT"! Don't get me wrong. I miss my babies, the sweet smell of them, their toothy smiles, their cuddly squishy bodies and their unbearable adorable-ness. When I look at old photos, my hurt turns over at how small and cute they were. Those days were precious and they will never come back. But I enjoy my almost-teenager and my almost-tween so much more.
They grew up, and I grew up with them.
Different folks, different strokes. Some people like the baby phase, some prefer babies just turn into adults straightaway :) And I've always enjoyed the in-betweens. My sweet spot is between age 7 and 13 (I won't venture farther than that because I don't have the experience!). Young enough to still think the world of their mum, old enough to be sassy with her. Oh yeah!
Around this age, they still haven't turned into gawky adolescents, who (face it) can be unattractive and smelly. Atleast the fond mother can still see shades of the babies they grew from. I've spent the last several years telling the kids we won't celebrate their birthdays because I don't want them a year older!
You can have a real conversation with them. They have interesting viewpoints, largely unencumbered by stereotypes. And because they are malleable, you can express an opinion and have them consider it seriously and without prejudice (which is often a challenge with adults!). However, the downside....fully expect to not have your opinion treated as the Holy Word. They will challenge you and make you admit your own irrationality/unreasonableness/judgements. I for one always get pulled up by both kids on being inconsistent (laying down different sets of rules for different situations and often forgetting my own rules) and not keeping my word. It's not fun to be told you are wrong!
They can amuse themselves, bathe themselves, dress themselves and basically give you a lot of TIME. The most scarce resource in any parent's life, and suddenly you find you have oodles of it. My kids handle homework and studying on their own so I have very little supervisory activity in the evenings. They read on their own, and we have often spent hours just lying in bed and reading, with occasional diversions and discussions into what the other person is reading.
We spend years thinking about when they will start full-time school so that we get some free time, and suddenly you have to count the years before he goes off to college (6 years in my case). Mild panic sets in (so soon! how could this have happened?) followed by a new-found appreciation of the time you do have right now (never mind we just finished a shouting match ending with a banged door).
The teens are clearly around the corner. There are tears for no obvious reason, heightened sensitivity to parental or grandparental criticism, a lot of "You always do this Amma! You can never be happy with me!" and so on and so forth. I am sure this walking-on-eggshells routine is going to be more frequent over the years. S often tells me not to provide "constructive" criticism when Ads is in a bad mood. I should also not provide feedback when Ads is in a good mood! Because then he'll fall into a bad mood again! I laugh at this absurdity. When am I supposed to give feedback then? When he's sleeping?
Spousal differences come to the fore when parenting older kids in the way they never appeared in earlier years. Physical care is largely binary - something is either right or wrong. When it comes to emotional care, you can fall anywhere on a long continuum and that's when your individual values and viewpoints get exposed, sometimes even to your own self. I've often found myself giving the "right" answer to my kids and silently questioning myself "But is this what I really believe in? Do I practice this?"
This thoughtful parenting gig is hard!