The hardest part of being a parent isn’t diapers and sleepless nights…

We’ve come a long way baby.

My very first blog post in 2009 was all about the big fancy number one birthday cake I made for my youngest child’s first birthday. It was my first attempt at cake decorating, and at the time I was knee deep in diapers, dummies, blankies, and getting up and down what felt like a million times a night. My oldest child at that time was aged fourteen.

I spy some fat squishy baby feet…

Fast forward almost ten years and my oldest is married, while my youngest has already had his high school enrolment interview. I know, WTAF goes through my head on a daily basis, not least because I still think I’m somewhere around thirty-five myself most days.

And as my daughter left the house the other night to celebrate her twentieth birthday with friends it occured to me that what I found most challenging about being a mother to four children was the stuff that happens when they’re older. The baby years, looking back, now seem like a piece of cake.

A stale and deflated piece because you never actually get enough time to sit down and enjoy it, sure, but somehow simpler than what lies ahead.

These are some of the truths that kick in when the cuteness passes, which the parenting manuals mostly don’t tell you about:*

  • That curly-haired chubby-cheeked toddler who thinks the sun shines out of your butt will without a doubt become an asshole at some point. You probably won’t like each other very much, and that’s okay. It will pass.
  • They WILL treat you like a very convenient in-house ATM if you let them.
  • Your child will decide one day that you know nothing. This is a good thing though, it means you raised a thinker who will form their own opinions and won’t just accept whatever they’re told. Not even by you.
  • Your kids will be out at night and you will have no idea where they REALLY are or with who. This isn’t anywhere near as much fun for you as it is for them, but it is normal.
  • Sometimes you might feel that, despite your best efforts, your child just isn’t living up to their full potential. But you don’t get to control what they do with their lives once they’re out of school, and that’s how it’s meant to be.
  • They will make mistakes, just like we all do. It’s all good, there’s a lot they’re trying to figure out.
  • Getting drunk, high, and doing stupid shit aren’t the kind of things I’d consider “mistakes”, they’re just part of the very normal try-everything-at-least-once stage most of us pass through during adolescence.
  • Teenagers are held hostage by their changing and emerging hormones. They are starting to become sexual creatures as they head towards adulthood, and even though it can be confronting to face sometimes {especially the dad/daughter thing}, you don’t have to hang off every bit of TMI or pretend to be their BFF. You just need to be there reminding them that you love and support them no matter what. And maybe mention condoms from time to time.
  • Anger, surliness, and angst are normal during the teenage years. Most often seen during the asshole stage mentioned above, BUT it can also be a sign of something deeper and more serious. Self harm, anxiety, and depression are real and all too common from the early teens on, don’t ever think you’re overreacting if you insist on taking action and/or seeking professional help. Sometimes our kids are struggling to let us know how much they need us to do exactly that.
  • Don’t stress about the friends they drag home who may be complete dickheads. Give your child the space and credit to figure it out in their own time. They will, I promise.
  • Never allow any of those friends near your computers and electronic devices with a toolbox.
  • You might miss them and even shed a tear, but when they start moving out you might also realise that it’s not the worst thing in the world either. Just sayin’.

Personally, my mantra in coping with a lot of this was something along the lines of “but what were we like at their age???” And usually that was enough to remind me that they were likely to turn out fine. Having sons and listening to news stories about late night alcohol fuelled violence is really fucking terrifying though, almost as much as having a daughter and hearing all the stories of the young women who will never make it home.

So what the actual fuck does a parent do? There’s not much you really can do about the world they move around in, is there? You can remind your kids to be safe and to look out for themselves and their friends, rather than remind them to be good or well behaved. You can hope that you’ve instilled enough common sense in them to override some of the lack of impulse control they now seem to have. After that you cross your fingers and hope for the best.

And pray.


*Probably because most of us stop reading once the toddler years pass.

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