I was in on a discussion today about parenting. In the room was a mom of a baby and a preschooler ... a dad of an older elementary student, a middle schooler, and a highschooler ... and me -- an old, tired woman with four adult children. There was a semi-debate on which stage of life was hardest. Hmmmmm. Let's see. Where do we begin?
Was it difficult to get up every two hours and nurse a baby, go through constant diaper changing, all while trying to love and nurture the older child, cook, clean, go to the grocery store, and be an attentive wife? Boy, do I remember those days! I figured up the other day that I was pregnant and/or nursing for a total of 108 months (that's 8 1/2 years, folks!!). I think I spent most of my time sleep-deprived, babbling about Bert and Ernie, stepping on GI Joes, and wiping noses and/or bottoms. And, at the time, I thought it was the hardest stage of parenting simply because of the physical exhaustion that accompanied it. Having adult conversations or going out to eat without cutting someone's meat was a treat! But absolutely NOTHING can compare to holding a sleeping baby, or checking on your precious toddler as she's sleeping, or listening to a preschooler say his prayers to Jesus. It was worth it ...
Then, our children entered the grade school/middle school/high school years. We were every bit as busy, just in different areas. Now we were deep into trying to figure out fair rules for our family (curfew, movies, dating, driving, friends), driving all over the state for athletic events, and surgeries and doctor's appointments (unfortunately, that went along with sports for our family!! During this time, it seemed like most of my time was spent behind the wheel of a car, going from one activity or another. And, a lot more emotions came in to play. I discovered that teenage boys desperately want to be independent and don't want "mommy". It was during this time that our children began pulling tightly on the apron strings, trying to see how much those strings would stretch.Yet, there were times when we'd all be sitting around in the living room, laughing and sharing a family inside joke ... or a teen would sit on our bed at midnight just to talk and share what was going on in his life ... and it was soooo worth it.
Our kids grew up and became young adults. We're not as busy as we were, but we're defininitely older (waaaaaaay older, as a matter of fact). Our young adult children have lived with us and lived in their own places; they've made incredibly smart decisions and unfortunately stupid ones. Mistakes made at this age can't be fixed with a kiss and a band-aid, and we as parents know that and have worried about it. When our kids are living here, we find that we still wake up during the night -- no, not for night feedings, but to check and make sure they've gotten home safely. I think my children turned in to vampires as they got older -- they just didn't seem to require sleep and liked being up all night long, and for parents who can't sleep until everyone's home safely ... oh well!! This stage has been emotionally exhausting, but it's all been worth it when we've seen them become parents ... or they've made an incredibly difficult decision that has shown maturity and wisdom ... or we get a random phone call just to visit.
Each stage of parenting has been difficult ... for different reasons. But those stages of parenting have all been as incredible as well. Would we do it over again? Yes!! Why? Any parent would know the answer to that question: because it's just been worth it -- every second, every minute, every hour.