So This is My Life Now

My mother has always said to me, “Little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems.” My children are almost exactly two years apart, and I vividly remember thinking to myself, when they were three and one, that my mom doesn’t know what the hell she’s talking about! Having young children is hard! It’s an up at dawn (and probably several times throughout the night), never-ending cycle of bathing, dressing, feeding, coaxing, napping, and soothing thoroughly irrational little people. At the time, I was convinced that having babies and toddlers was the hardest stage of parenting, and that it had to get easier as the kids got older.

Fast forward nine years. Last Saturday morning, I found myself waking up to an alarm at 5:00 a.m. to get my 12-year-old son to swim meet warm-ups at 6:45 a.m. I spent the next four plus hours sitting on a metal bleacher in a hot pool waiting to watch him swim in three events that collectively lasted 2 ½ minutes.  As I was sitting there, I thought to myself, “this is my life now.”

I had lots of time to think during this first meet, and I started doing a little mental math. I was a competitive swimmer for roughly 15 years; my mom took me to probably a thousand swim meets, she even traveled to my events in college.  As I sat through my maiden voyage as a swimmer’s mom, all I could think was that I should really thank my parents for everything they’ve done for me. I always thought I understood everything my parents have done for me, but there is a big difference between arbitrarily knowing something and viscerally knowing something.  It was in this moment that I realized maybe my mom does know what the hell she’s talking about!

I now have two wonderfully independent children who can get themselves dressed in the morning, make their own breakfasts, shower all by themselves, and get in and out of a car on their own, yet I am still up at five in the morning on a Saturday wishing for just 15 more minutes of sleep.  I think that the big-kid problems from my mother’s saying refers to the emotional component that now accompanies the physical exhaustion of being a parent. While I am not up with a fussy baby anymore, I am now up at a swim meet with my heart in my throat hoping my son does well--and feels successful--when it is all over.  There is a level of anxiety that accompanies all of our children’s endeavors in life that I never could have anticipated as a new parent. However, along with the risk of failure comes the opportunity for great success. Much like my heightened level of stress, the level of joy I feel as a parent when my children succeed is unparalleled to any feeling of personal accomplishment I have ever had. I cried like a baby when my daughter qualified for regionals in gymnastics.

My point in all of this is, yes, my mother was right: “Little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems.” What the saying doesn’t tell you is that big kids also mean big joy!  It is so amazing watching children become real people with personalities, likes, dislikes, talents, shortcomings, and successes.  As I sit at a swim meet, gymnastics meet, or in the car for two hours a night, I happily think to myself “this is my life now.”