But let me tell you something, ladies. There will come a day when you look back on these years with something that feels like wistfulness. A longing, even.
Because that pea-soup spewing, head spinning, chicken nugget-clutching abomination in the car seat behind you is going to be a teenager some day.
And then things get really fun.
I can't write something like this without first pointing out the merits of teens. They are a wonder to behold. Some days it's like living inside an ABC After School Special without any commercial breaks. You get to relive your teen years, good or bad. Every single thing you did as a teenager comes back either to haunt you or to give you fodder for speeches and diatribes and guilt trips to lay upon your own teen.
You can have conversations with teenagers, which is mostly cool. They can do things like drive and tie their own shoes and use the stove without supervision. Most of them are adept at personal hygiene and rarely need help in that area, except when they scream from the downstairs bathroom that they need a towel.
Don't get me wrong: I love my teens. Which is good, because at the moment, I have four of them living under my roof. We have some good times together, me and my gaggle of teens. We have interesting talks, we watch The Walking Dead together, some days our coexistence feels a lot like harmony.
But the past few weeks have been a doozy. I've gone apeshit with my teens. My least-proud moment was when I was driving around a nearby city looking for "a Dairy Queen" trying to find my 17 year old daughter who had gone there after school with some friends. I'd been trying to get the map feature on my phone to work, and it kept stopping. It was dark, I was pissed because that had been the one and only night my youngest didn't have hockey, and there I was, driving like a tourist and scanning the horizon for one of those freaking Dairy Queen signs. "Mom, where are you?" she called to ask. "I'M DRIVING AROUND HOPKINS LOOKING FOR EFFING DAIRY QUEEN, THAT'S WHERE I AM!! WHERE IS THIS DAMN PLACE?" I barked back at her. "God, Mom, it's not that hard to find. It's down the road from the movie theater." She sounded like she was smirking as she said this. I could tell. "CAN YOU BE MORE MOTHER EFFING SPECIFIC?" I shrieked into the phone. I heard muffled laughter and felt a shameful hot horror as I realized she had put me on speaker.
Yep. I'm that mom. The spastic f-bomb dropping one. In my defense, I'm also the one who always lets the kids have oodles of friends sleep over and I provide donuts in the morning. Bacon if I'm feeling rich. So there's that.
But this morning, I got to thinking of my kids as they used to be. I actually got moist eyes thinking about my directionally-challenged daughter as a toddler. She'd wear these stretchy knit headbands all the time, so that she looked like a mini-John McEnroe. She loved wearing her older brother's training pants. She'd often leave the house wearing Batman undies beneath her sparkly tutu. She was obsessed with backpacks so much so that I took to calling her "Packy" and at any given moment she'd have one strapped to her back, stuffed with treasures.
I then remembered her tantrums. I remembered the poopy pants and the croup and the sibling rivalry and the endlessssss bedtimes.
But still...for just a moment this morning, I kind of wished I still had toddlers. And I came up with a few reasons why TODDLERS TOTALLY TRUMP TEENS:
1. SLEEPING: I'm sure you've heard of the book "Go the F*ck to Sleep". Get ready for the teen version I'll be writing called "Get the F*ck Up, You'll Miss the Bus". Seriously. These people sleep like vampires. Sure, no more being awakened by two scary eyeballs peering at you from the side of the bed at 5:00 a.m., but waking a teenager is kind of like reenacting "A Weekend At Bernie's". God help you.
2. INAPPROPRIATE USE OF TOILETRIES: Oh it's so funny when Junior gets into your lipstick or maxi pads and gets all messy. Sometimes you take pictures of them and post it on Instagram. But get ready for the waves of nausea when you find your good bottle of body lotion tucked in your 14 year old son's underwear drawer. Alongside two dozen wadded up tissues. You won't be so quick to post those pictures, my friends. (this seems like a good time to tell you: HIDE THE EXPENSIVE LOTION, LADIES..keep only the Suave and St. Ives within child reach)
3. HOMEWORK: Your toddler has none. Boom. I'll be honest here: I became useless as a homework helper around 5th grade. Math has changed since I was in school, and even back then I couldn't do it. Now, if you want me to help you write something? Bring it on. But not the math. Please, God, not the math. My kids stopped asking me for help years ago. Phew.
Teens have a lot of homework and while you may not be asked to help out with it much anymore, you will certainly have to hear them bitch and moan about doing it, and you might have to run damage control when they magically remember that they have a ginormous project/paper/4-course meal to prepare for culinary class at 10:00 p.m. on Sunday night. And yes, I did live through the 4-course meal thing. Thank God for a best friend who can cook like a boss and who doesn't judge when you call her, sobbing, and ask if she can "HELP US MAKE A FOUR COURSE MEAL" at 10:04 p.m. on a Sunday night.
4. AXE BODY SPRAY: You think you're sick of smelling poo and pee and sour milk and ketchup? Just wait.
5. SLEEPING (YES, AGAIN): When you have babies and toddlers, you want to sleep but you can't. When you have teens, you finally can sleep but you don't want to. Because teens go out. Without you! And sometimes, you don't know exactly where they are, or who they're with. Out of sight definitely DOES NOT mean out of mind when it comes to being the parent of a teenager. Out of sight means your imagination goes into overdrive and every worst case scenario unfolds in your head with ugly clarity. You don't mentally exhale until you touch base with your teen/baby.
I imagine that I'll probably be able to sleep again someday. Like when I'm dead. Which reminds me, I should probably tell my friends to put my sleep mask with me in the coffin....mama gonna sleep, y'all!
So there's five ways toddlers are easier than teens. Now, we could flip this around and go all Opposite Day and say Oh yeah, Jenny? Here's how teens are easier! They can talk! They don't crap their pants! They don't crawl into bed with you and lose control of their bladder! They don't need their hot dogs cut into non-lethal bite-size chunks! They don't cry at Target! They dress themselves! They don't go boneless and refuse to move in the middle of your Mommy and Me class, the one with the perfect mommies who silently judge your shitty parenting!
And you know what? We'd be right. Parenting is hard. It doesn't matter if your charges are tiny and have soft little feet or if they tower over you and sometimes startle you with their man-voices.
Just different kinds of hard, that's all. And here's a little secret for you, something I think about when my four teens are all seemingly conspiring to make me insane:
If you look hard enough, you can still see your toddler in there. It might be the curve of a cheek, it might be the way they twist their hair, it might be the way they sleep with their mouth open and one hand curled up near their face (yes, it's okay if you sometimes sneak a peek at your snoozing teens, people, just avoid the underwear drawers). Sometimes it's an expression on their face or that certain stance of theirs that jumps out of nowhere and says "BOO! I'm still in here, mommy! Miss me??"
And when you do get that glimpse of what once was framed so beautifully in what is yet to be? It takes your breath away.
Here's to all of us and our sometimes-impossible children, big and small. May they always keep us tired and worrying and cleaning....
|Packy in the crack den.|