My son, my first child, will turn 21 this month … 21. YEARS. This is how long I’ve been a mother. It’s funny how memories are. Sometimes I can remember every tiny detail – an outfit he wore at a particular occasion and the funny things he said. Sometimes I can’t remember much at all about certain periods of time … like how I managed to make it as a single parent for an entire year while my husband was deployed with the military. Thankfully, we have pictures and videos and just a lot of memories.
So, in my nostalgia of considering that I have a real-deal adult son, let me tell you what I have discovered about parenting in my vast experience. (I also have an 18 year old and a 9 year old, by the way!):
I have found that I have spent about 50% of my life as a mother trying to get kids to go to bed. Bed times have varied. I have tried routines – jammies on, teeth brushed, books read; and I have tried “just go to bed!” demands. I have changed up bed times as the child has gotten older, and adjusted bed times back when said child needed more sleep after all. I have been the sweetest mom – “one more hug and kiss”, “yes, you may have a cup of water”, and “I will sit by you for a few moments while you fall asleep.” I have been the most frustrated, desperate mom as well – “JUST GO TO SLEEP!”, “NO, NO MORE WATER … you’ll wet the bed” and “Please, please, please, go to bed. Now.” Teenagers are harder to get to bed than toddlers sometimes, too. I will just warn you now.
And I have spent the other 50% of my life as a mother trying to get kids out of bed in the morning – at least for school and other time-driven obligations. I have to preface this with the fact that my children and I are NOT morning people. We thrive on late-night conversations and staying out late, having ice cream and shopping, and binge-watching streamed shows. However, life – school and work – demand that we get up in a timely manner. And we are those people – that are often late.
Mornings at our house are usually not a time of joy and peace. I have tried all the tricks – earlier bed times (you can lead a child to bed, but you can’t make him sleep). I have prepared the night before for the day ahead. I have bought every alarm clock known to man. I will admit that when I was younger, I was better at the routines; I am old and worn down now. So, we drag our carcasses to school and work and all other morning obligations – usually with the fear of being tardy – and often wondering what we might have forgotten to do before leaving the house.
So, friends, that’s it. Parenting in nutshell: get the kids to bed and get them up. Day in, day out. For years and years.
But seriously, it is quite a journey, watching your child become independent. You hope and pray (I pray a lot!) that they will do well, make good choices, and listen to at least a little bit of your advice. You do have to sometimes let them make their own mistakes and face the consequences; perhaps that is when they learn the most!?
One important piece of advice I can share about the best way to reach your young-adult child: never underestimate the power of food. Home cooked meals still bring my son home, and my oldest daughter thrives on sushi dates with me. So, if you want to get to know your busy, grown-up child, put some food in front of them and start talking … or maybe just listen. I think you’ll enjoy getting to know the person you raised.