Someone with a young baby asked me the other day if I agreed that the newborn stage was the hardest part of parenting (his other kids are older pre-schoolers). I tried not to just laugh in his face, knowing that he needed sympathy for the exhaustion, the hours of walking the floor, and all that comes with that stage. But really? I think I’m just starting to experience the hard stuff.
I loved having newborns. Not the getting up in the middle of the night — who loves that? — but the nursing, the snuggly little body who wanted to be held, the child who could be left alone for a few minutes and when you returned, they would be where you left them, all of that. I loved that you could be fairly sure that you were doing the right things — keeping baby warm and fed — and that baby’s needs were basically totally uncomplicated.
Yes, I remember that my back always hurt and that I sometimes felt so sleep-deprived I could barely keep my eyes open.
Here’s what I’m in the middle of now:
Kids who don’t have many friends, one of whom finds it too difficult and would rather just keep to himself, and another who feels bad about it all the time but can’t figure out what to do. A third kid who has so many friends I can’t get him to come home. A kid who watched an R-rated movie (huge no-no for us) at a friend’s house without knowing it, because it had been approved by the friend’s parents (the friend is 7). Another kid whose 7th grade teacher wants to show an R-rated movie to the class (please agree with me that’s wildly inappropriate, regardless of the movie).
All of these kids are doing well in school, thank goodness, but the homework doesn’t do itself. Nor does anyone practice the piano without my knee in their back. No one even takes a shower without my knee in their back. Oh, and we’re trying to help Sam get through the last three ranks of Boy Scouting by ourselves because there’s no program here and he doesn’t want to just quit.
So yes, it’s hard now because things are complicated, things matter more, and of course we’re much busier. (I’m not even going to detail how crazy toddler Thomas is right now.)
You know what though? You can easily tell yourself at every stage of life how hard everything is. You can tell everyone else too (don’t you have a friend like that?). There’s something really hard about each part of life — high school, college, being single, being a newlywed, having babies, having toddlers, having teenagers, having kids leave home, getting older. Always something hard you can focus on. Or you can tell yourself how great your particular phase is — how exciting, how interesting, how stimulating, how inspiring. I think I just told myself that.
How about you, do you have a hardest part? Or are you just focusing on making each stage the best part?