My 6 a.m. alarm goes off. I’m so tempted to hit snooze. I close my eyes almost drifting back to sleep and in my mind I picture a beautiful, graceful fairy waving her magic wand getting the kids out of bed, breakfast on the table, consent forms signed….but whoa….back to reality.
Why am I so tired?
I think back to the days when I had babies and toddlers, waking up in the middle of the night pacing the halls when those dreaded double ear infections would strike, or the monotony of washing bottles, sippy cups and plastic plates that had divided sections for just the right amount of vegetables and meat.
I didn’t think I’d be this tired.
I think back to hoisting a kid on my hip and carrying them around while making dinner, my back completely out of alignment. I remember taking them to the grocery store, giving them a cookie to munch on while I shopped with that cart that resembled a car, and I almost broke my back trying to steer it. I remember breaking up the monotony of the day by taking a walk with all three of them. One always wanted to ride their bike, and you learn as a mom to pick your battles, but inevitably their legs got tired and they just couldn’t go another inch. Those were the days of carrying a tired kid and a bicycle as we made the long trek home.
I’m so exhausted.
There were those weeks when my husband travelled and I couldn’t wait for daylight savings so it would get dark early. I would close the blinds in their rooms and put them to bed…it might have been 6, and they would probably wake up earlier, but it was worth the gamble. I’d grab the last load out of the dryer, sit on the couch with my wine and fold those little Hanna Anderson and Gymboree outfits. At 7:30 I was done.
Let’s fast- forward a decade. It’s 7:30 and I’m just about to get in the car to drop my 14 year-old at basketball practice until 9. My 18 year-old is working on calculus homework that, to me, looks like a foreign language. I got word from my oldest that there’s a team picture tomorrow and his uniform from the day before has to be washed so he can take it to school. I had already picked up one kid early from school for a orthodontist appointment. I attended a morning committee meeting, I booked a hotel for an upcoming college acceptance reception, and the list goes on and on.
Is everyone this tired?
This stage of mothering big kids is where the rubber meets the road. It’s not as physically exhausting, but it is emotionally exhausting; coordinating carpools, driving to appointments, volunteering here, there and everywhere, helping sort tutors for AP classes, editing papers and college essays and drying tears from break-ups and not making sports teams.
I’m freakin spent!
We no longer have to help them with day-to-day tasks like tying their shoes, brushing their teeth, or reading bedtime stories. They help with some of household chores, but the laundry still resembles Mt. Everest and my desk is piled high with field trip consent forms, sports team schedules and monthly bills.
My kids need me now in a completely different way. They need me emotionally.
They need me to let them know that the C- on the chemistry test isn’t going to matter a year from now, and this whole high school thing will be a blip on their radar some day. They need me to reassure them when they go through a break-up that their world is not ending.
They need to talk to me or to respond to their text when they’re having a great day….or when they’re having a not so great day. They need me to hug them. They need me to make them chicken soup when they appear glassy-eyed and it seems almost certain they’ll be flat on their back in the next 24 hours.
I’ve begun to master the routines and choreography of parenting big kids and will always be their biggest cheerleader. I have more experience now, in parenting kids that are 6 inches taller than me. I do my best every day to make sure that even in the chaos of emotions of parenting big kids, I get out of bed, wash my face, pour myself a cup of coffee and greet them with a smile and a good morning, even if it’s met with a nod and a grunt.
I’m not perfect and I love that they see that. I forget to turn in forms at school. I forget to pack lunches. Just recently my son almost walked out the door with a pair of my underpants clinging to the back of his sweatpants from static cling because I probably forgot to put the dryer sheet in that load.
Look at it this way, our kids are like unbaked cakes. And as they grow into teenagers, they’re still a little wiggly and the toothpick might not quite come out clean; but they’re almost ready for the sprinkles, with all the emotional exhaustion that goes with that stage day in and day out. You can only hope that you’re raising confident, competent young adults who will contribute to society in a positive way.
I can close my eyes every morning after my alarm goes off and wish for that fairy with a magic wand to appear….but would I? Then I’d miss out on those special moments with my kids that day.
Sure, I’m tired. I’ve got a few more wrinkles and dark circles under my eyes, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
This piece originally appeared at Grown and Flown, published with permission.