When my kids were little, I used to hear things like “it gets easier as they get older.” I wondered if that was true, but not too much — who had time, managing four kids’ needs, schedules and health? Parenting is amazing and I’d have had more kids if I could have, but I’m here to say that whoever told me that was wrong. Parenting teens and young adults does not get easier just because they are older. It’s just different.
Yesterday, a friend of mine saw my photos on Facebook that were taken at my husband’s birthday celebration on Sunday. We’d all met at a local bowling alley that had a restaurant, bar, pool tables and dartboards. It also had huge Jenga games, a ginormous Connect 4 game, air hockey and a litany of other options to keep people of all ages happy. It was a perfect destination for a family celebration where not everyone is 21 and it’s too hot to be outside, and we had a blast.
My friend’s question though made me think though. She wanted to know how I got all of my children to be there in one place, at one time, on a Sunday afternoon. Uhm, I didn’t ‘get’ them all there, they came. It was sort of hard to answer, because to me, this is how it is. A parent’s birthday happens, kids come together. Period. Wait, this isn’t how it’s done in every family?
Growing up, my mom had some issues with my dad’s family that kept us from seeing them. It made me sad, because it felt like bitterness and judgment separated us from normal family gatherings. I always heard my friends talking about growing up with their cousins. They’d see their aunts and uncles and grandparents frequently. I didn’t have that. It stuck with me and definitely impacted how I knew I would parent. Both the husband and I decided early on that our kids would be a tight-knit family and it was a core for everything as they grew.
As a result, I’ve had goals for my kids. Not speaking to each other or not coming together for family things is not an option. It wasn’t necessarily even something I had to say to them, it was just a thing. I don’t think it’s anything we did — they just do it. It’s not always perfect and there have been issues between the kids, of course. When you have four different personalities and a 12+ year age range, there are going to be differences. To expect otherwise would be naive, but they are siblings and in the end, they are going to always be siblings so they need to get over their issues and move on.
I see some friends go to family reunions, everyone gathering for someone’s celebration or just posting photos of their extended family members in honor of an event. That’s an awesome thing, and it’s something I hope my children will continue to do. And I hope I don’t have to step in, but I will if I have to. I’m mom. I’m always going to be their mom. They can make their own mistakes and life their own lives, but to abdicate my responsibility as mom is not an option. They may not like what I have to say — or dad, as this goes for him, too — but we’re always going to be here. A parent’s job never ends.
Their career choices, their financial habits, their appearance…the list of things that in the end really isn’t my business is a long list. When it comes to family though, that’s always my business. To not remind them of the importance of their siblings, their family involvement or other family-related things, I can’t fathom that. If they didn’t act to come together for the husband’s birthday, I’d most definitely speak up. Saying it’s not my job seems like….an easy way out. It’s not always pretty being the parent, and we do risk angering our children sometimes, but the end result is worth it. Days like Sunday make it all worth it.
When my son has a football game, sibs show up. Someone gets sick and is in the hospital? They show up. Major holiday, they show up, even if it requires some schedule modifications. None are more important than the others. Even now with in-laws and other extended family obligations occurring, we’re still included. The same friend who asked me how I ‘got’ my kids together for the husband’s birthday told me she was going to be home alone on Thanksgiving. I felt bad for her. She’s got three local children and no one’s including their mom and dad? We talked honestly for a while about it. If she was local, I’d add her to my holiday list just so I could kick her in the butt for not speaking as honestly with them as she did me. (And she knows it, so as she reads this, I hope she’s smiling!)
Speaking of smiling, there have been jokes with my kids that someone’s going to need to put a parent pod in their backyard when we get old. They’ve joked about it being on wheels so they can rotate the responsibility. I laugh, because I am glad that it’s least a discussion, however humorously intended, but I also warn them I plan to be mobile and kicking until I’m at least 100.
You have a few decades to start prepping the backyards, kiddos…..just sayin’.
Until then, I’m looking forward to many more family celebrations and events. I hope that there aren’t a lot of emergency situations but I know that if there are, they’ll come together. I won’t have to ask. When they start having kids, they will continue the gatherings, and the cousins will all be together. Will they all like each other? Probably not, but exclusion’s not an option. They will still gather and get over petty stuff…because that’s all it is, in the end. Time together can’t be replaced so short of trying to kill each other, I expect them to move past it. I will be all up in business if it happens, but I don’t think it will.
Family is where it’s at and I’m pretty sure they’ve got, and will continue to have, the family involvement I didn’t. Our gatherings are silly, fun, serious, whatever they need to be. When we add in significant others, the group just grows and envelops the newest people. Not sure what all we had to do with it, other than continuing to speak up along the way here and there, but as a parent, we couldn’t ask for more.
**This is the first post about parenting teens and young adults that I’ll be sharing. Being a mom of kids at this stage is an awesome experience and I have some great stories!**