There’s an 18-year age difference between my first child and my second. My husband and I adopted two boys after our daughter was grown and flown… I guess it was our solution to the empty nest. Most people thought we were crazy… they’re probably right, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
More: People stare at me because my kids’ skin doesn’t look like mine
Here are a few lessons I’ve learned about parenting the second time around.
1. People question your ability to count
Sometimes, people compliment my kids… because they are pretty freakin’ cute. Sometimes, people ask if I have other kids. When I tell them I have a 23-year-old I get stuff like:
“That’s a big age gap.”
You think? Maybe people worry I’ve somehow overlooked that little fact? Believe me, I get it. Some people even go the extra mile, do a little finger counting and let me know how many years there are between my daughter and my sons. Yep. Got it.
2. Sibling rivalry knows no age limit
Don’t assume an older child won’t have feelings of being displaced by new additions. It doesn’t matter how old you are: Your mom is your mom, and when you suddenly have to compete with a new kid for her attention, your inner toddler might come out to play. Every family dynamic is different, but I’ve learned not to discount my daughter’s feelings.
3. You will feel old and young at the same time
While a lot of my contemporaries enjoy kid-free travel and quiet houses, I’m stepping on LEGOs and cutting the crusts off sandwiches. My back reminds me of my age every time I bend over to give my kids a bath, but there’s something about the constant presence of young kids that keeps me feeling young.
4. Parenting changes… and yet it doesn’t
Parenting today has so many more bells and whistles than it did 20 years ago. Technology has exploded. Toys are cooler, more complicated and harder to get out of the damn package. I have to worry about Internet safety and guns in schools. There’s more stuff to keep track of, like screen time and whether the chicken in our chicken nuggets has been genetically modified.
Sometimes I struggle to get my head around everything I need to look out for, but some things about being a parent don’t change. The fundamental aspects of nurturing and teaching our small humans are timeless. Kissing boo-boos and answering the important questions of the world — like why frogs don’t have fingernails — don’t change over time.
5. Older parents are often more secure
Parenting in my 20s was tinged with self-doubt. I’d constantly question whether I was “doing it right.” I’d fret over every developmental milestone and what other people thought of my mothering skills. I worried about germs, every sniffle and whether my kid would be potty trained “on time.”
I find my “second time around” parenting philosophy to be more relaxed. There’s not much sweating of small stuff. I didn’t stress over how long it would take my kids to be out of diapers; in fact, my 5-year-old still wears a Pull-Ups at night, which causes me to lose exactly no sleep. I hear younger, less seasoned moms whispering in worried tones about milestones. Not me. I’m confident my kids will know all of their colors and count to 100 by the time they start college.
6. A thick skin is required
Having kids later in life or having kids after a long gap might be more common than it used to be, but it’s still probably not the norm. Get ready for people to ask if you’re the grandmother or to point out how old you’ll be when the child graduates from high school. “Was that planned?” or even “What were you thinking?” might be questions you field from nosy jackasses. I’ve found the best response is a blank stare combined with a little drool… This removes any doubts about mental fitness, and people usually just leave you alone after that.
Hitting the parenting reset button isn’t for everyone, and most people probably don’t plan this. Sometimes, life sneaks up and surprises you.