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I look at my growing teenagers every morning as we are racing out the door to get to school on time. We've been doing this for over 11 years now, and it's still hard; we still don't have it right.
As they pack their own lunches then pile into the car without a jacket—despite the frost on the ground—I think, this is supposed to be easier because they are older.
But it isn't, and this is why:
I remember thinking while I was trying to wrestle the three of them into their winter gear, make sure they had their lunch and their homework, and that they didn't forget their water bottle, how nice it would be when they could fend for themselves and do the heavy lifting on their own and I could just grab the keys, slide in the car and get them to school.
And that's all I have to do now—the rest is up to them, and yet while the physical aspects of getting them to school, or anywhere really, are easier, it feels difficult because I long for the days when I was sweating trying to find matching mittens and would lean in to make sure they were buckled in properly and steal extra kisses. I miss their innocence and the way they’d clutch their permission slips and talk about recess.
When our kids are little and we take them grocery shopping, all we want is for them to behave, to stop asking for things, and we daydream about the time when we can leave them at home and go shopping alone without the added stress and distraction.
Then they grow up and we bribe the same kid that used to ask for everything in sight, with something in the store just so they will come spend time with us.
When they are younger, we would give anything for them to fall asleep on their own and stay asleep all night. We would stay fueled by coffee and feel like we needed a mid-morning nap, but we couldn't take one because they were wide awake and wanted our attention focused on them.
When they grow up, and we are waiting for them to get home from a night out with their friends, we'd give anything to have them home during the night instead of hoping they make it home safely.
When they are little and want to wear lavish outfits and change 20 times a day and need our help pulling on tights and braiding their hair and buttoning a shirt we think, I can't wait until they learn how to dress themselves.
When they grow up they wear the same hoodie every day, and we have to beg them to shower, change their clothes, and do something with their hair (please!), we miss the years when they used to express themselves through their clothing before they became aware of what other people thought about them. We'd give anything to help them slip into that princess dress or superhero costume.
When they are younger and asked us countless questions, and we felt like our brain just can't work to accommodate being their walking encyclopedia, we would give anything for quiet time— even if it's for an hour.
When they get older, the silence almost hurts our ears. We ask how their day at school was, how their friends are, and in return, we get one-word answers, shrugs, or grunts. They spend so much time alone in their room, and we want nothing more than to have them come sit with us and pepper us with questions like they used to when they believed we knew everything.
When they are younger and have endless energy and are awake early, crawl into bed with us, poke at our eyes, and are so excited to see us they talk in their outside voice without even realizing because in their eyes, we are that amazing.
When they get older, we have to peel them out of bed and try and jump start them into motion. They don't want to talk or move and we long for the days they used to wake us up at the crack of dawn because they wanted to see us so badly they couldn't wait another moment.
Parenthood makes us experience nostalgia over and over and over again. We long for things to get easier, but as soon as our kids grow out of one phase, we are faced with a new situation and have to wade our way through.
And we want nothing more than to go back to the way things were. Then we adjust, and our kids change again, and we have to find a way to flow with them.