It was only recently that I first felt like an ďolder momĒ. I donít mean an older mom in terms of my age (though I suppose I am; age just doesnít bother me). I mean older in terms of seeing moms with their pod of younger children, just beginning their journeys. My youngest child - my baby - is their oldest. They are a few paces behind me, and Iím noticing the differences.
My children, for example, are not all always with me. They used to look like little ducks trailing after me. Sometimes, Iíd even quack, and they would follow suit. Now, Iím lucky when I get to go out with all four. Usually, I have to beg one of them to go out with me.
Going to playgrounds is easy now. Assuming I even have all four of my children with me, the frantic watchful eye is much calmer now. I am at peace at the playground. I am still vigilant, but I am more at ease. My children will spread out - each doing their own thing - and thatís ok.
I was so tired of climbing in the back seat of my mini-van to make sure everyone was buckled in safely. Iím happy to report that the need passes, and you wonít miss it. Everyone eventually learns to buckle themselves in and knows not to unbuckle while you are driving.
Hearing a child yell ďMommeeeeĒ jars you when it comes from an older child who gave up ďmommyí for ďmomĒ long ago. But they still do - at times. Usually when they are sick or upset or in trouble.
At a park recently, I observed young children tugging at their mamaís legs. They had to go to the bathroom; they wanted a snack; they were ready to go home. I still feel like my children tug a lot - I once counted the number of requests my children made of me during a day - and in the first two hours - there were over fifty. The thing that changes when they are older is that you can ignore them. Or try. Or ask them to do it themselves.
Whether your children are older or younger, you - the mom - are only as happy as your most unhappy child. Even if you are skilled at letting them live their own lives and experience their own mistakes and sorrows, it is still painful to see your child suffer.
Iím not sure we ever get a full nightís sleep, but sleep does change. Night time routines may remain challenging - children still want one more glass of water before they go to bed; they are hungry the second you announce bedtime; as you walk out of their room and down the hall - just when you take your first, relaxing breath - they call you back for something. The change is - you donít feel guilty saying ďno, Iím off dutyĒ.
Problems get more complicated. Dare I say adult-like? Their problems begin to involve the outside world. Tantrums are not about wanting a toy in the store or wanting to stay at a play date. They occur because you have wronged your child. Their arguments become real. Perhaps still irrational, and Iíve definitely observed toddler-like behavior during these arguments - but they make you pause and question yourself.
You wonít have as much material to post on facebook, write on your blog, or record in the baby book. Your children will learn proper vocabulary and their cuteness will come out in different ways. Youíll begin to wonder if everyone else finds them as delightful as you do.
Your children will judge you. They will watch you judge yourself, so be mindful. They will help you judge yourself. And make you feel stupid. Itís just their way of determining their place in the world.
Your children will still rely upon you even if they pretend not to. You are their safe place. They hold it together all day and may need to let loose at home. They take out the stress of figuring out who they are on you.
As an older mom, you donít read about child-rearing techniques or try out new methods of discipline anymore. You do explore ways to help your child maneuver the world successfully. You do get caught up in their struggles at school, in social situations, and amongst their siblings. Hopefully, you can offer the perfect balance of guidance and watching from the sidelines.
The grocery store is still not fun when children are tagging along. They still want things you donít want to buy. They have important things to say to you while you are trying to concentrate on sticking to a shopping list, meal planning for the week, and ensuring you get everything on the list so you donít have to return to the store later that week.
You canít undo your mistakes easily and they (your mistakes) slap you in the face. Simple things - like not always encouraging healthy eating choices. You thought it would be easier once they were older because you could educate them and theyíd understand. NOT! Instill your values early and make sure you are living according to those values.
Being a mom of older children is just as exciting, challenging, and delightful as being a mom of younger children. Itís different. Itís definitely different. And the things that are no longer a part of my parenting have definitely struck me recently. But, other things have come to take their place.