“‘Just wait until they’re teenagers’ doesn’t negate the fact that this stage is hard too.
I think this is a go-to phrase for a lot of older parents –mostly the ones with the memories of hormonal teenagers ever so present in their minds.
How easy we forget the sleepless nights and the tantrums from tiny humans who cannot communicate efficiently with words yet. How easy we forget the exhaustion of caring for young kids. How easy we forget the toll of trying to raise empathetic, kind, and caring children. How easy we forget what it’s like to be a parent to a very young child.
Discrediting my struggle now doesn’t help me for the future.
I’ll never forget being at a family gathering three years ago when I was visiting my dying father with my 4 daughters under three years of age. My 18-month-old wanted to play with a doll that her 2 and a half year old sister was playing with. Within a few seconds it turned into a tug-o-war act, with both girls screaming and yelling at the top of their lungs.
I was nursing their 3-month-old twin sisters when it all went down and I struggled for a second to figure out what to do. In my head I was working through the logistics of unlatching the twins, grabbing the doll, making them understand that they needed to take turns, as well as wiping tears and giving hugs when their hearts were broken.
But in the middle of my thought process, a family member stepped forward, giggled to themselves and proudly stated, ‘Just wait until they’re teenagers and they’re fighting over clothes!’
How is that helpful?
Sure, it’s a ha-ha moment for all of the parents in the room who have already parented teenagers. It’s a funny joke imagining these four girls one day yanking on one side of a pair of pants that they each wanted to wear. I totally get that. But this moment of toddler tantrums is absolutely not the time to say it.
I couldn’t even hold back my smart mouth. ‘How about instead of daydreaming of their future fights, you actually get down and help them work through this one? Since you know, my nipples are inside the mouths of two of their sisters.’
I’ve had total strangers give me the same speech in a grocery store once they realize all six are mine. They gasp and can’t help themselves, ‘Oh my! Just wait until they’re all teenagers!’
Is that statement supposed to make me feel better? Or make the person saying it feel sorry for me? Or better yet, is it supposed to make me regret having this many children because I have to go through that stage, six times with six different personalities?
You hear all about the things to ‘wait for’ the second you get pregnant.
‘Just wait until you feel those contractions!’
‘Just wait until they start crawling!’
‘Just wait until they start walking!’
“’ust wait until they start talking!’
‘Just wait until they start arguing with you!’
‘Just wait until they throw their tantrums in public!’
‘Just wait until they understand the words you spell out while talking to your spouse!’
‘Just wait until they have all of this homework!’
‘Just wait until they have friends and couldn’t care less to be around you!’
Just wait…just wait…they never end.
Whenever people make those comments to me, I am immediately denied my feelings. As if my now isn’t important because ‘just wait until then.’ How about we just enjoy what we have now and not try to wish it away too fast? It already goes fast enough.
Just because the teenager stage may very well be way harder, and trust me – I’m already nervous about having 6 teenagers very close in age – doesn’t mean this season of babies, toddlers, and young kids isn’t difficult too. You’ve just forgotten. You’re too far removed from the memories.
It’s like taking someone with a broken arm and saying, ‘Hey, but your leg isn’t broken!’ How is that productive? It’s still a broken bone.
Children’s ages aren’t a competition for what’s more difficult or who has it harder. But honestly, it’s all relative don’t you think? What’s hard for me might not be hard for you. What’s a piece of cake to me might be backbreaking to you.
All stages of childhood have their easy and tough moments. Everything is a phase. Nothing is easier or harder and you don’t even know you’re heading into a new phase until you’re suddenly just there. Then you’re on to the next.
Maybe you could argue that your particular child’s newborn stage was the worst due to literally not sleeping. Maybe you could argue that your particular child’s toddler stage was worse due to being a late bloomer with their words. Maybe you could argue that your child was more difficult to raise during the primary school years due to them not making friends very easily.
At the end of the day…maybe it depends on the child. Maybe my children will be easier to parent as teenagers. Maybe I’m made to parent teenagers better than I can toddlers.
I don’t know until I get there. I need the support now to lift me up during these formative years. I need you to empathize with me.
You might not remember the diaper changing and constant attention. You might not remember how exhausted you were. You might not remember crying in the pantry with a child banging on the door, crying for you to come out.
Fake it til you make it. Pretend like you remember and empathize with me. Try to put yourself back in your young parenting shoes. Just try.
I don’t need the sarcastic futuristic comments. I don’t need you to make me feel worse about what I’m going through now because of your ‘it’ll only get worse’ type of statements. It’s zero percent helpful. It makes the years coming up more distressing instead of exciting.
Be mindful this holiday season when you’re around a young family. Help entertain the young kids, we need help keeping them busy. And between us, let’s keep the snarky comments on the low. When you know better, you do better.”
Read more from Molly:
‘Every half-birthday, my grandma would take me to breakfast at Cracker Barrel. Every year, she texted me to make me feel special.’: Christmas Eve baby cherishes grandma’s kindness during forgotten birthday
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