I’ve been chugging along, doing the parenting thing and not really paying attention to all of the changes in my life. Sure, I’ve noticed what’s going on with my kids growth and I’ve noted their milestones but I didn’t really pay attention to how much my life has changed (and I’m not talking about the gray hair, wrinkles and all around aging that I’ve done since they were little).
No, it’s the day-to-day stuff that changed and I didn’t really see it coming.
Suddenly my husband and I are home alone three or four nights in a row! We aren’t always sure what to do with ourselves, though. Before kids we went to bars, new restaurants, even art exhibits in the city. Now one glass of wine puts me to sleep and waiting for a table at a new restaurant requires patience that only a 20-something can muster.
But this major life change got me thinking about the other ways in which our lives have changed. Here are four of the more stressful ones for me:
- Holidays. I imagine that Thanksgiving might be the same for a little while – at least until the kids start bringing home their significant others – but other than that the holidays are just not the same now that my kids are older. For instance, the Fourth of July used to be so festive. It was an all day event for us – beginning with the kids lined up on the curb for the local parade and ending with gathering with friends and neighbors at our town’s fireworks a few blocks away. We would spend the day playing badminton in the backyard, eating barbecue and hanging out with the family and friends. This year the kids wolfed down some burgers with us around 5:00 pm then disappeared. We saw them at a distance at the fireworks but they didn't sit near us where I could watch them staring at the display with wide-eyed amazement (not that they would do that now but they used to). As for Christmas, without the magic of Santa it’s just a day to pass out presents and eat too much. The Easter Bunny went the way of Santa so Easter is really now just a meal no matter how many plastic Easter eggs I try to hide around the house. And Halloween? It’s just a day to watch a scary movie and eat the candy that I bought for our trick-or-treaters.
- Sleeping. I still don’t get any sleep it’s just that my hours have shifted. If my kids fall asleep before midnight it’s a miracle and no matter how hard I try to fall asleep before them I really can’t until I hear their doors shut for the night. I used to love getting up at 6 am with the kids; I felt like I could get so much done. Now, I have been forced to become a night owl and, as much as I like having control of the TV remote when my husband is asleep, I’m usually too tired to accomplish much past 10 pm.
- The bedtime routine. Probably the saddest part of the shift in my kids’ sleep patterns is their bedtime routines: I am no longer part of them. I still get to give them a hug and say goodnight but that’s about it. Our bedtime “process” used to be fairly elaborate for each kid: there were assorted books (with nightly negotiations for more), different bedtime songs and different places to sit in each room with the lights out for a few minutes before we left. I remember the first time my oldest son told me I didn’t have to stay in his room anymore after I said goodnight. It was like a knife through my heart! Then there was the time that my youngest and I were going through our usual “Love you. Sleep tight. See you in the morning. Good night,” routine when he said to me, in a very solemn voice, “You know, we won’t need to do this when I’m 42.” I left his room and burst into tears. Whadda ya mean! I thought. We will always do this! Obviously we wouldn’t, but there was a part of me that couldn’t fathom stopping. And now it has.
- And, finally, probably the hardest change has been my knowledge about their lives. I have no idea what my kids and their friends talk about or think about anymore. Every now and then they will share a funny story about something someone did or said but for the most part getting information out of my kids requires being in an environment with no distractions, asking the right questions at the right moments and knowing when to stop talking. I am really not good at the whole “stop talking” thing so I usually ask one question too many or ask something that is so stupid like, “Where is John going on vacation this summer?” and all conversation comes to a screeching halt. This is in sharp contrast to the days when my kids would talk and talk and talk about their days with such incredible detail that their stories often took more time to tell than the actual event took to happen. I miss that even if, at the time, I could not believe that they could talk so much.
Change is inevitable, I know, but I don’t have to like it…
How has your life changed as your kids have grown?
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