Sunday, February 18, 2007

Back Link Climbing Precarious Heights

A few weeks ago, Tammy wrote about how parenting seems to get harder the older our children get. There’s a German expression that goes, “small children, small problems, big children, big problems”. Which I certainly didn’t think was true when my children were small. Taking care of babies and small children consumed every minute of my day, many moments of my nights, my thoughts, my intelligence… every bit of my heart and soul. I just couldn’t see that how raising older children could be more strenuous, worrying, nerve-wracking than trying to keep your young child alive, fed, comforted, and challenged.

Now that my two children are older (12 and 16), I still don’t know whether Tammy and popular German saying is right. Is parenting harder now than it was ten or twelve years ago? Are the problems bigger?

The only thing that I know to be true is, children, no matter what age only seek challenges where the outcome is uncertain. It seems part of human nature: don’t go after an easy catch.

Small children climb on furniture that is precariously high, they play with complex stereo equipment capable of intimidating any adult, and they willingly wash dishes only if they are small enough to fall into the sink while standing on their highchair. As a mother, every time your small child goes off on an adventure, you have to ask yourself “Can she or he survive this?” Survive, in the sense of, will-we-be-calling-the-ambulance type of survival.

Currently, some of my friends have babies and small children, and while I cringe to see the two-year old child running in the direction of a glass door (does he see it, will he stop, arggh, that must have hurt), the mother makes an executive decision about whether or not the child will survive the experience if he doesn’t stop soon. And, then she nonchalantly picks up the crying child and calmly kisses the bonked nose, and off the child goes on his next adventure.

Larger children also set out on various innocuous adventures every day, which parents have no control over: bus rides to school, shopping with friends, school trips to the big city, Friday night parties, travelling to visit their father on weekends, chat rooms in the Internet… Yes, as responsible parents we should try to supervise our children’s activities, minimise the risks, and talk about the dangers, but whether our children will survive these adventures is unknown. And that scares the bejeebies out of us.

A wise and wonderful friend of my mother once told me… there comes a time when your child no longer wants you as a protagonist in theatre of their life. They don’t even want you as one of the silent but mighty spear-bearers standing in the back of the stage. They might, just might, be willing to have you sit in a front row seat in the audience: cheering them on when they succeed, weeping at their disasters, and glowing with pride when strangers applaud.

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Blogger charlotte said...

I have two out of three out of babyhood (one only just so, who enjoys sliding back if she so chooses), and I find it gets harder because the issues get bigger. I think the German proverb may just be right.

We have to equip them with the tools they need, give them a hug and a kiss and wave goodbye. I do that every morning dropping a young lady off at "big" school. One day soon I'll be waving her off to university and I'll just have to pray that I've given her the right tools for life.

(Right now my husband has taken the two oldest off skiing for a week, and I am finding having one small baby to look after pure heaven. I remember the days of having one small child and how difficult I thought it was ... well, it's a breeze!)

19 February, 2007 07:03  
Blogger lia from luebeck, germany said...

Charlotte, The issues might be bigger but the children are also carrying the load of responsibility. A shared load, somehow is not as taunting. When the kids were really small, I felt as though their future existence was up to me. Now, the task can be passed back and forth between the players.

19 February, 2007 07:51  

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