When you have children, be they newborn, toddler, threenager, school age, heading into the tween years or fully in the teen years, you have times where you feel like it’s HARD. Each stage brings new things, new developments, new growth, new learning both for you and your child, but it can also seem incredibly challenging. I am not here to tell you that newborns are easy and that eight-year-olds are a picnic because I am dealing with a different stage in life whilst you juggle a new baby and a toddler who hasn’t adjusted to a new sibling yet. It’s all hard. I won’t lie about that. But it will be ok.
As a mum of an almost teenager, I am facing a stage that I am not used to. I am finding parenting a teenage girl almost like parenting myself in many ways and also a total stranger that looks like the child I knew but who is pushing all the boundaries and my buttons. It’s normal, and part of the stage we are in but it is actually the hardest bit of parenting I have faced so far. But that doesn’t devalue the hard that the mum of the toddler I met today who is finding that stage particularly challenging and wonders if it will ever get better. Her hard is also my hard, just at a different stage.
I remember the baby days. The days when they don’t sleep all night and want to be held all day. When you have no idea sometimes what they want or need, or actually what you want or need, other than sleep and someone else to come and do all the things you can’t do whilst holding a baby that screams if you put them down to even go pee.
The toddler days when they are changing so fast and learning and developing but are incredibly stubborn, frustrated and frustrating. Potty training, moving into a bed, dropping naptime, they all seem like huge things and challenging.
The three to four years, where they go off to nursery and seem suddenly so big and not a baby anymore, but revert to some baby behaviors in an attempt to reassure themselves that they still are your baby.
My four year old would have spectacular meltdowns that she never had when she was two. We didn’t have the “terrible twos” we had the “horrible fours”.
Then they hit five, six and seven and they go off to school, they are independent and can do things for themselves and will tell you that, often, but suddenly they seem easier to manage, reason with, talk to.
Then the hormones kick in, puberty looms and you see them suddenly as the adults they might become. They want to be treated like adults but they often revert to what seems like toddler behavior when life doesn’t go their way and the way they behave at home makes you wonder if the teachers are talking about the same child at parents evening when they talk about how polite, helpful, tidy and considerate your child apparently is to what seems to be the rest of the world but can’t manage that at home.
It’s all hard. Each passing stage. You wonder why on earth it seemed like a good idea to replicate yourself, a cat or a gerbil would have been less emotionally and physically exhausting.
I won’t lie to the mums I meet, daily. Who are in the thick of so many stages I have been through and seen.
I don’t want to tell them that what they are feeling is invalid, and that doesn’t get better. It’s not about better.
What I will say is that no stage is harder than another, don’t compare my seemingly easy stage to your challenging stage now. It’s just different. It will get easier and some bits will still be hard.
Because as soon as you think you have your kid sussed and this parenting game might make sense, they change again and you feel like you have been sent back to Go, but not collected the £200.
But if you are tired, and finding it hard, don’t feel ashamed or worried that you are alone. As I parent an almost teenager, I look back on the baby and toddler days with rose coloured lenses thinking it was a doddle compared to the stage I face now, but when I see a mum dealing with her adorable but fiercely tantruming toddler, I remember it was hard, and there were days when I wondered what I was doing wrong and bedtime was the only bright spot in the day to look forward to (and a glass of wine and leftover chicken nuggets from the toddler dinner they didn’t eat) my hard now, is your current hard with your two year old who thinks sleep is something other kids do.
I survived, I am still in the trenches surviving.
It’s hard, but it’s also ok and sometimes, in fact a lot of the time, it’s freaking amazing.
The day they look across a room at you, and the face you see says “you are mine” and no one else will do when they need comfort.
The day you realize that you HAVE cracked potty training.
The day they bring home that first piece of artwork made at nursery that someone else has cleaned up the mess from.
The day they magically seem to learn to read.
The day they tell you “I love you”.
The day you can ask them to cook a meal, whilst you have a bath, a nap, or do some work and they can do it, because you taught them.
When you see them learn something new, that you have been teaching them, riding a bike, doing a puzzle alone, going off to school, passing exams or tests, and watching for you to see how proud you are of them, because that is all they care about.
The moments when you realize that yes, it’s hard, and no one else is going to step in and do it for you, but that small, one day will be bigger than you human being (borrowing your clothes and makeup, or asking for the car keys) is part of you, and you made them, and it all will be ok.
And one day, they will have kids of their own, and you will see them dealing with so much you learned, what seems hard and you can tell them the same.
It will be ok. It really will.
Finding your tribe, of mums who are in the thick of it, helps. Also finding mums who have been there and done it, who can be a reassuring shoulder to lean on, helps. Don’t think you are alone. We are never alone, we just sometimes need to reach out, or even reach in.