As I sit sorting through crafts ideas for toddlers, I am naturally taken back to the memories and joy of days spent crafting, chalking, singing nursery rhymes and doing art with my older girls. It is fun knowing we get to do it all again with our four year old son, and it is also a reminder of how quickly it all truly goes. Furthermore, having a big gap in between children offers an opportunity to step back and decide if there is anything different we will do this time around.
The irony of having bought baby diapers and maxi pads for my baby and preteen at the same time were not lost on me. The days of car seat carrying and diaper changing are over, and we have now entered a phase of starting one in school and one finishing. Perhaps God had a bigger plan to ease my Momma heart when my nest begins to empty by keeping me busy with a younger child.
The parallels of parenting a toddler and teens are at times so extreme I have to laugh out loud. I have gone from tucking in my son with a story, him nestled sleeping under my arm, to an hour later literally diving into a car window after my teen humorously locked me out of the car during a late night Crumble cookie run. I am still game for the teenage pranks and I am always down for a good T.P. war. Being silly with your kids never stops no matter how old they get. I am learning to let it be all encompassing and go with the flow of all my kids stages of growing up.
The best part of raising bigs and littles together has been seeing their bond unfold. I recently watched my oldest, a senior, unbuckle our son from his car seat and carry him asleep on her shoulder into the house, and I thought my heart may burst. Of course a younger brother wreaks of the innocent torturing of his older sisters and when a non-filtering toddler blurts out embarrassing observations, it can certainly make a teenager squirm. But, regardless of the maturity differences and the inevitable squabbling of siblings, seeing your children interact in harmony is a beautiful thing at any age or stage.
Since my son was born, he has been the center of our family’s affection and a huge distraction for all of us from the turbulent nature of getting through middle school and starting high school. There is enlightenment when older kids begin seeing through a different lens some of the things they did as a kid. For example, they now understand how annoying the repeat game can be and that missteps in vocabulary can linger for weeks. My bigs have also learned when you are trapped in the car on a road trip next to a sneezing toddler, you may feel a twinge of disgust wiping their snot river away, but melt when he smiles back and says “thank you”. The experiences caring for a younger sibling, giving baths and wiping butts can help keep a kid humble.
Life with a toddler is an ever-changing lesson for older kids and helps them find a smidge more appreciation for all that parents do in a day. But trust me, none of these lessons change a teens ability to wreck a freshly cleaned bedroom by throwing clothes on the floor or save me from harping at them to clean up their bathroom. All lessons come in time and I will save rants for another post.
For me, at the end of the day, I just want to say “the kids are OK”. The Universe willing they will be better than OK! We know we are going to make mistakes as parents. Someday at a family gathering when our kids are grown, there will be bellyaching about something we did or didn’t let them do or that wasn’t fair, etc. Overall, I want our kids to first know, that without a shadow of a doubt how much they have and will always be loved. Second, I want them to know we have their back, but more, that they have one another’s back in this world and no age gap should ever stop them from keeping their bond and support for one another through life-the good, bad, ugly or different. Siblings if you are so lucky to have them and know them, know you in a different way than anyone else you will meet in your life. There is something special about knowing a sibling will always know where you came from and how it shaped who you are.