After a few minor crises with teenage daughters over the last week, I’ve come to a shocking realization: I’m through the sweet spot.
It happened without me really noticing, as happens with good things in our lives that we come to take for granted. I knew my oldest were getting up there, and that diaper days were gone, but I didn’t really register that I was in that smooth sailing middle year stage, where everyone can dress themselves and still likes hanging out with you, until these teenager-shaped waves started cresting.
I should have realized my calm waters were fading when I decided not to renew my subscription to the parenting magazine I’ve been reading faithfully since No. 1 was in utero. The advice was just too much focused on the younger years, I thought. Which I don’t need so much any more, I thought. Because here’s the unfortunate but completely appropriate truth: we can dish for days in almost any public forum about the colour of our little’s excrement, or the anxieties of starting school and making friends, but there’s a corner that’s turned somewhere in the middle years where it’s no longer kosher to get into the nitty gritty of our children’s lives with just anyone. Probably because their lives are becoming their own, instead of extensions of ours.
I’m not going to be one of those people who bemoan “teenagers today,” because I actually think they are pretty awesome, in my specific home and in general. And it’s not like the younger ones haven’t caused showdowns over getting out the door in the morning, or car trips punctuated with puke. That’s the stuff all families go through.
All I’m saying is, I was in the zone where you sleep peacefully at night with no babe to feed, no toddler crawling between me and my squeeze, no preschooler with a nightmare. I was there, in that zone, for probably three years. And I didn’t even know what I had.
Because now, I’m at the other end. The end where I’m awake second-guessing every word I said to Ms. Surly, or trying to stay awake to “be there” for Ms. Butterfly when she rolls in a hair before curfew. The end where I might not be so physically exhausted as I was during the Olympics of the younger years, but where emotional stamina gets tested. Sometimes it’s marathons, sometimes sprints: sudden, unexpected, with frightening potential for tripping, crashing, broken limbs.
But also for finish line ribbons, glory and gold.
Lazy days on the deck of my parenting are over. Scanning the horizon and trimming the sail are called for now. Finding the place each of my children need on the continuum between helicopter and hellifIcare will not be easy. But you know what they say about not easy things.