My good friend Heather and her kids stayed with us in the cramped little terrace last week, and in the midst of the crazy chaos I was reminded of what life was like with little people. And, amusingly, how similar the teen and tot years are!
My formerly ‘little’ people, are now 12, 16 (soon), and 18 (soon) so it’s been a while since I’ve heard the patter of tiny (human) feet. Suddenly, it all started coming back to me – the worry, that feeling of being ‘on demand’ and the toilet interruptions.
Nothing says ‘Mum’ quite like delivering a lecture on how to do something from the white porcelain throne.
I’d forgotten that little kids are up and at em from early until late. I’d forgotten that the up and at em activity is usually fast, furious and noisy. And messy.
Teenagers are up late, at both ends of the day, and when they are up their activity is likewise fast, furious, noisy and messy.
I’d forgotten that small kids (3yrs and 5 yrs) haven’t yet learnt that the world does not revolve around them. They are ego centric and quite prepared to call Mama every time they need the earth moved on its axis until it is just-so. And calling Mama they do, every few moments.
Teenagers also are under the misguided belief that Mum is there to wait and serve. And drive. And do washing. If anything goes wrong in a teenager or a small child’s world, it’s Mum’s fault. No juice left in the sippy cup? Mum’s fault. Missed out on breakfast because got out of bed too late after going to bed after night-long Call of Duty sesh? Mum’s fault.
It’s Mum’s responsibility to ensure that the fridge and cupboards are stocked with juice, bread, milk, weetabix and beer.
It’s Mum’s responsibility to provide a bed to sleep in, clothes to mess up and to provide on-demand entertainment. Or at least, to drive to entertainment in the form of that party down country.
It’s bizarre how similar the two stages of life are. It’s as if all the middle childhood years didn’t happen! Everything that was learnt between the ages of 6-12 has been erased from my teens’ memories. Of course in human development terms, both phases are prime times for experimenting with their own ego definition. Which is really psyc mumbo jumbo that explains why teens and toddlers both:
Want it all, and want it right now!
So when the house guest pulled out balloon creatures, I wasn’t surprised to see both teens and tots join in the fun side by side.
But the scary thing is that although both tots and teens are experimenting with boundaries, with tots you can pull rank. It’s not so easy pulling rank when you are gazing upwards to the Son who towers over you! With tots you can with-hold toys or money or enforce earlier bedtimes. None of those things work with teens. It’s impossible to physically pick them up and haul them off into time out. And that’s another thing – time out is not much of a punishment when your teen is wailing ‘I vant to be alone’ like some modern day reincarnation of a wartime movie star.
Perhaps the scariest thing of all about this teenage stage, is that you well remember the trouble you once got into and you can almost guarantee the kids will experience much the same, and there’s no way you can stop them. In fact, you probably shouldn’t even try.
Son went out on the Friday night to his first stayover party at a friend’s house down country. Imagine a bunch of 18 year olds staying over, (though I did find out that the parentals were upstairs, thank God) and you know what sort of shenagins were on the cards. I delivered my very best drugs’, safe sex and alcohol lectures, and then fully aware that this was the parenting acid test, I waved him goodbye.
I may (or may not have) checked my phone for text messages 75 times between then and when we finally heard from him.
My text: Are you alive?
His text (many hours later) Busy at diner will call later.
We didn’t hear from him later but we did receive a call from the Diner he works in to come and pick up a very poorly Son. But this wasn’t the time to embarrass him with motherly love. I let My Englishman tactfully deal with him; provide a bucket and a litre of water and send him to bed. My job was simply to stand back and let him experience it, without kissing it better or wrapping him in cotton wool. Even though a part of me was desparate to call out – Now let that be a lesson to you young man’.
But I didn’t… After all learning to live well, is a little like learning to ride a bike, you need to fall off at least seven times before you can ride solo. And every time you fall off you have to haul yourself back up onto the bike, because Mum won’t be there to do it for you.
I can’t help feeling it was so much easier when a good party featured balloon animal creations, not mixing cocktails. When a cuddle and a decent a meal of spaghetti monsters would make everything better. But I guess for my eldest those days are past.
What scares the crap out of you more – parenting tots or teens?