My early morning meeting began today with a rather frazzled mother of three rushing in at the last minute, gratefully grabbing a cup of coffee, and then collapsing on her chair with the desperate plea, “Your kids are bigger than mine… tell me this gets easier!”
I just smiled. What do I tell her?
It does get easier, in a practical way. They learn to brush their own teeth, pack their own bags, dress themselves and make their own breakfasts. You can actually wake them up and then say, “Get ready I’m going to shower,” and they do. They clean up after themselves… sometimes. They feed dogs and cats and fish without you worrying they will poison them. Or leave a trail of animal food all over the house. They learn to wipe for themselves! That’s a milestone worth celebrating! And ultimately they slowly become independent – if you let them of course.
But does it get easier? I am not so sure.
In some ways it gets harder. The emotional stuff becomes bigger. Their problems get bigger and more adult like. The troubles they face get more serious.
But it is still filled with those rewarding moments that make it so worthwhile.
I have a six-year gap between my oldest and my youngest, so I am still firmly entrenched in Lego and toys and learning to read and tears and the turmoils of friends not being their friends today. But then I am as involved in the teens that everyone seems so afraid of. I hear about first kisses and stupid stuff that friends do, and I get to watch how peer pressure manifests its ugly little head – although sometimes in a positive way, thankfully.
But does it get any easier? I really don’t think so.
You see I’m a parent. And the older my kids get the more I realise that each age and stage has its own set of challenges. But underlying all of them, is the same basic drive. A protective instinct so fierce and primal that it turns you into someone who would be prepared to die for your child. It enables you to imagine carrying out acts so barbaric when your child is threatened or hurt, that a mamma bear would flinch. The responsibility you feel and the need to get it right, never gets any easier.
So as we begin our meeting, I look into her desperate eyes and try find an answer. An honest answer. “It does get easier,” I said. “Soon they will be doing everything for themselves and you can arrive at meetings totally together and unfrazzled!” and she sighed and sipped her coffee, gratefully grabbing at the leaf I offered, “Thank goodness!”
I know she was not ignorant of the changes that will come, and the other challenges she will face as a mom. It’s what she needed to hear in that moment, even though I suspect that she knows deep down that a parent’s job never really gets easier, she grabbed that little piece of sanity then and there, in the moment, because like all parents, we know that once that child is born, your heart will forever walk outside your body, and that never gets any easier.