A couple of weeks ago, my kids and I were at a party, and I ran into an old friend. She had her baby and toddlers in tow. As we greeted each other, I recognized the weary look in on her face. The look that revealed her long day of childcare—the constant feeding and diaper changing, the non-stop monitoring and discipline, the meltdowns, the challenge of being absolutely everything to multiple little beings.
My friend saw my kids in the other room sweetly playing together, and she wistfully said, “So that is what I have to look forward to.”
I happily (but not too gleefully—I didn’t want to make her jealous, just hopeful) admitted that I am indeed in the “sweet spot” of parenting. My kids are eleven and eight and are turning into happy, self-sufficient little people. They can pour their own milk and wipe their own butts. They can take showers by themselves and remove snot from their own noses. They don’t need me to entertain them constantly, and they can even prepare simple meals for themselves. THEY CAN PUT THEIR OWN GLOVES ON. (I’ll let that one sit for a moment. Try not to hate me too much.)
And the best part of the sweet spot? They still like to hang out with me and my husband. It’s really amazing. And wonderful. I know this phase won’t last forever so I am trying to soak it in as much as I can.
But don’t get me wrong. It’s not all Kumbaya campfire songs and s’mores over here. We still have our issues. There are still plenty of things that make me want to sneak a glass of wine by mid-afternoon (sometimes mid-morning). In no particular order, here are 5 of the sour patches in the sweet spot of parenting:
- Homework horror. There are so many things to hate about homework. Whether it’s the whining or the teeth pulling to get the homework done. Or the projects that somehow become mine instead of theirs. Or the fact that I just don’t understand how they’re teaching math nowadays so can’t explain how to get any of the answers anymore. (“The answer is B. I can’t tell you how I got it. It just is.”) Homework time sucks. It’s the absolute least favorite part of my day. (Cue wine swig.)
- Ridiculous eating habits. I’ve got some damn picky eaters. Between my daughter’s sensory issues and my children’s new-found vegetarianism—finding an enjoyable meal for everyone is a constant challenge. They whine and complain at dinner time every night. Every. Damn. Night. Honestly, I’m tired and have given up finding creative ways to force encourage them to eat. My latest strategy: “You don’t like this? Go make yourself peanut-butter toast.” (We go through a lot of peanut butter.)
- Constant chaos in their rooms. It doesn’t matter how many labeled bins or drawers I put in their rooms. It doesn’t matter how often I help them organize their crap. (Or how much Febreeze I use.) Their rooms constantly look and smell like post-tornado destruction. I don’t understand how they function in those rooms. Once a week I make them pick the crap off of the floor so I can at least vacuum. But all of their stuff just gets shoved in the closet or under their beds—mountains of soon-to-be-donated-while-they’re-at-school crap.
- Endless electronic battles. After the homework and chores are done, the kids have an hour or so of free time in the afternoon. They’ll usually play on the computer, the TV, or what-not. (They also read and draw and play with their toys so don’t freak out on me.) On the weekends, however, it gets trickier to enforce. First of all, they’ve figured out that if they let us sleep in they can have completely unsupervised screen time (win-win?). And more and more of their homework needs to be done on the computer so it’s very easy for them to slip in game time or snacking on YouTube videos. I can’t tell you how many “I need to FaceTime so-and-so to check on homework” episodes have turned into video chatting dance parties. I find myself screaming, “Play with your toys!” and “You will go outside, and you will have fun! (Dammit.)”
- Hellacious preteen hormones. OH. HOLY. SHIT. The sweet spot of parenting lasts only a short amount of time. We can already see the ugly hormones raging in my daughter’s body. Intermittent hysteria. Crying fits over clothing options. Full-on meltdowns when trying to help her with homework. They’re all making their regular monthly appearances. (Conveniently timed with my own period—damn you, lunar cycles!) We’re going to lose our sweet little girl soon. So I drink some wine and let her cry it out in her room until she’s ready to talk again.
I’m sure the fact that at least one of these five things happens on a daily basis has nothing to do with the amount of wine we consume every week.
But I had better enjoy this sweet spot. After all, the teenage years are coming…