The Ages of Parenting: A Wonderful Life Sucking Experience!
Recognize the people on the park bench feeding pigeons?
I use to think they were the poor forgotten souls, but as my own kids grow older I realize now that they are simply parents whose kids have grown up and left them a shell of the person they once were. Yes, those poor souls are the future me (and maybe you).
I compare parenting to the history of the world. We had The Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age. Parenting has the Diaper age, The Plastic Age, The Taxi Age, The Hormone Age,, also known as The ”I Hate My Parents” Age, The Illegal Substance Age, and finally The Feed The Pigeons Age. I’m sure there are others that we could include like the “they never call me except when they need money” Age and the “why are you making the same mistakes I did” Age, but I’ll save them for a different article.
A funny thing about these ages, or ‘stages’ of parenting, though. They silently change and you don’t even know you’re in a different one until you are thick in the middle. One day you are buying diapers at Costco because you save a dime a diaper by buying a box so large it would last you, oh, a week or so. You wake up one day and you’re hauling primary colored plastic products in the back of your SUV from place to place, and it doesn’t matter if you have one kid or five, you manage to fill up the car with carriers, strollers, folding baby jails, as I like call them, and of course, their big safe colorful toys.
There is one telltale sign of the switch from the Plastic Age to the Taxi Age. It’s one particular junk day. Watch out for it, because you will find most of the plastic products piled up at the curb for pickup. That’s your sign to buy a minivan because you’ll be hauling the kids from soccer games to friends houses for sleepovers to theme parks, and on and on it goes. Carpooling used to be a work related word, now it becomes a survival and budget saving technique.
The Hormone Age. This is test of our sanity and of our entire existence on earth. Nothing makes sense in The Hormone Age, not to you, not to them, not to anyone, it just happens and I believe this stage is a direct contributor to The Feed The Pigeons Age.
You try to remember being a teenager, but because you were doused in nature’s little April Fool’s joke of a drug, you really have no perspective. We thought our parents were old fashioned, unreasonable, and let’s be honest, a little dumb. Just like certain illegal drugs make you hungry or make you a character in Alice in Wonderland, hormones gives teenagers these opinions of their parents.
One day you are funny and cool, then BAM! You are instantly completely not funny and a complete dork. Ok, I’ve always been a dork, but let’s stay on topic. One day you are the funny dad making kids laugh in the back of your minivan and then without notice you are asked to say nothing and stop embarrassing them. Yes, the Hormone Age is a roller coaster trip without a safety bar on a seat that’s just been Armour All’d. What fun.
A good friend once told me (warned me?) that a moment will happen as it does sometime during all teenager’s Hormone Age. He said that if you know it’s coming, and it will, then when it does you won’t get angry, you will only snicker and that alone will really piss them off. I almost couldn’t wait. I didn’t have to for long.
He said that you will make a simple, reasonable statement or request of your teenager and they will look at you like you are the dumbest most ignorant human being on the planet and give one of those teen-patented ‘humph’ that we all know so well. If you weren’t forewarned then your natural reaction would be to get angry, which only supports their cause that you are a horrible parent. Loaded up with the ammunition of the trigger sensitive snicker, I waited like that guy dressed like a leaf hiding up in a tree waiting for Bambi.
My request was tame by comparison. I simply said, “you will clean your room before you go out tonight, right?” (try this one, it’s awesome!). And there it was, the look of “are you that stupid?” and that familiar ‘humph’, and when I did the quick draw snicker, it sent her storming out of the room. It was, sadly, a highlight of my parenting career.
Here’s my last word on The Hormone Age, or “I Hate My Parents” Age. I’ve read that if your kids don’t say they hate you at some point in their lives, then you are doing something wrong. If that’s true, I must be doing an amazing job.
I might catch some flack about the Illegal Substance Age. You might think if kids read this then they might think it’s ok to experiment, blah, blah blah. First of all, A teen reading this article is about as likely as me understanding one of their video games. Secondly, most kids are around other kids who are doing things they shouldn’t be doing and it’s something that has to be addressed. Your may or may not do these things, but they probably will (are?). Sorry.
This stage is different for everyone and I don’t want to make light of it…except to say that I feel it’s always better to assume they are probably doing something they shouldn’t, but give them the false sense that you actually trust them. This should set the perfect trap. Enough said.
If your child has successfully navigated through the Illegal Substance Age, then you are probably in pre-Feed The Pigeons and are beginning to feel the life being sucked right out of you. No worries, it’s a natural part of life and nothing to worry about.
You have some time though, as you will discover some brand new ‘Ages’ that will bridge the gap to that lonely park bench. You might find the ‘Am I the parent or grandparent’ Age, the ‘why do I have hair growing straight out of ears’ Age, the ‘why do I pee ten times a night’ Age, and finally the ‘where the hell did all my money go?’ Age.
In the meantime, if you do have any money left, you buy some bird seed. You’ll need a lot of it so wait for a sale at Costco and try to find a comfortable bench.