Because parenting two toddler boys who were only sixteen months apart nearly killed me. Yes, I adored them. Yes, I loved snuggling them and rocking them to sleep. Yes, they were cute and funny and broke my heart open in new and wonderful ways. But it was exhausting. And I’m not a high-energy gal.
The boys’ needs, both physical and emotional, took it out of me. Sometimes, as our then family-of-four pulled into the driveway, I would put my seat back, close my eyes and say to Jeff, “I’m not going in.”
“I’m done. I’m just gonna lie here, while you go in with the boys.”
“Yup. What I really want to do is run away. I’m choosing to stay married and stay in this family, but I cannot go into that house and deal with kids and dinner and toys and baths and bedtime. Come get me when they are in bed.”
Jeff never tried to convince me that it really wasn’t that bad. And he never tried to make me feel guilty. He quietly took the boys inside and prayed that I wouldn’t make good on my threat to run away.
It was a good move, because I never sat there for too long. That small act of rebellion was all I needed to remember that I had a choice. I could leave if I wanted to. And I didn’t want to.
I stayed. I kept at it, learning how to shed layer after layer of selfishness I didn’t know was there. Learning how much I could give, and how to admit defeat when they needed more than I could give.
And then they grew up. And Nafisa came to live with us. And things got better, in part because I like older kids. Here’s a short list of why it’s better to parent eight-year-olds than toddlers:
- They can stay up to watch the Olympics without being jerks the next day.
- They can talk with you about God, and wombats, and hurt feelings, and you can all grow in the process.
- You don’t need to take a suitcase of supplies with you just to drop off a book at the library.
- They tell jokes.
- If they wake up at 5:47 am, they can make their own breakfast.
- You can read the same books and teach them your favorite card games.
- When they help you clean, it’s actually helpful.
- They develop passions, and you get to watch them become someone you never imagined.
- They do their own laundry.
Sure, I look at their baby pictures and experience a sense of longing. I remember their first steps, and their chubby little hands helping me mix cookie dough, and I miss those little guys. But I like (and am probably better at) raising older children.
A couple months back Ezra wrote in his journal, “Daddy comes home tomorrow. I’m so excited. He’s my favorite parent.”
That wouldn’t have happened five years ago. When they were toddlers, they wouldn’t have told me that I really need to take a shower, or that my butt is “really cushiony.” They weren’t disobedient and snarky. But the truth is I like these snarky, insulting children better.
So why, just when the boys are becoming less needy and more enjoyable, would I decide to homeschool them? Homeschooling upsets the typical developmental trajectory, making them needy in whole new ways. Homeschooling re-ignites my desire to hide out in the car. So why do it?
Mostly because we decided it would be good for the boys and good for our family life. But also because I sensed that my desire to run away from anyone’s dependance on me was not such a good thing. (More on that tomorrow.)
What about you? Do you miss those baby days? Or are you finding that you like your kids more as they grow up?