Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Difference Between Toddlers and Teens

Last week I spoke for a group of young moms at a MOPS meeting. And I started off my presentation by answering a question which is often asked of me these days.
Karen, does it get easier when they're older?
(I distinctly remember a conversation I had with a father-of-teenagers many years ago, in which I was told it does get easier. I now feel it is my duty to set the record straight. *ahem*) So, with all the compassion I could muster I gazed out upon that group of mothers and answered, "No. It just gets different."

Now, I am not gonna lie. Parts of life are definitely easier!
I love the freedom of not having to load kids into the car and buckle them into car seats. The ability to simply grab my purse (as opposed to locating the diaper bag and making sure it is adequately supplied with diapers, wipes, cream, snacks, and an extra outfit - just in case) and run out the door with the kids to do something is amazing. I cherish the flexibility of being able to plan things without always having to consider nap time, or how far we'll be from a potty. And being able to go out with my husband without planning for it days in advance, driving to pick up a sitter, and leaving detailed instructions about clean-up, bedtime routines, and how to handle I-can't-fall-asleep delays? Bliss!!!
But, aside from those points, I'd say life doesn't get easier just because your children get older. We still have struggles and "it" sure doesn't feel easy. Indeed, it's just different.

For example, notice these differences:
Toddlers think you know something about everything and will question you incessantly until you're left making things up just to satisfy their curiosity. (Or, until you find yourself answering, "Because that's how God made it," to almost every inquiry.)
Teens think you know nothing about anything and will question your reasons for everything - until you begin to wonder why you're setting a curfew, requiring chores to be done by a given deadline, and restricting screen time. Just to name a few.

Toddlers aren't truly capable of many things, but want to help you with it all.
Teens can do more than they'd like to admit, but pretty much want you to do everything.

Toddlers don't always have the words they need to express themselves and will often throw a fit to get their meaning across.
Teens have plenty of words to express themselves and will often throw a fit - while using all those words - to get their meaning across.

Toddlers need lots of love and will seek it by being cling-y. To the point that some moms feel the need to lock themselves in the bathroom for a respite.
Teens need lots of love but will sometimes withdraw from hugs and kisses. To the point that some moms feel rejected and unnecessary.

Toddlers need a night light in their bedroom because they are usually afraid of the dark.
Teens don't need a night light. The light from the screen of the device on which they are playing games under the covers is adequate. (Remember that limit you wanted to set on screen time? Yeah. Forget about it!)

Toddlers are small enough to be physically carted away if they otherwise refuse to come when called. Even if it means kicking and screaming so as to completely embarrass said toddler's mother.
Teens have much greater staying power. In fact, if the teen is a boy - chances are he can pick his mother up and put her to the side. (Or will be able to in the next year, or so.)

Toddlers are highly possessive individuals and are usually unlikely to share toys, books, or anything else with anyone. Because they're afraid they might never get it back.
Teens have learned to be generous - such that they will freely loan out Dad's tools, Mom's kitchen utensils, and their sibling's calculator. Without much of a concern for ever getting it back.

And, finally...
Toddlers seem to think the world revolves around themselves, their needs, and their desires.
Teens - Oh, wait. This aspect doesn't quite seem to change.

And that's pretty much how it goes. Wherever you are in this journey of parenthood, you're going to face struggles. I'm quite certain none of us is ever going to reach the stage in which we'll proclaim, "Oh. Now it's easy!"
But I have become convinced that "easy" is highly over-rated. Because I don't grow, I don't feel the need to lean into God and trust Him for my every breath, I don't become more of the woman He intends for me to be when life is "easy." No, all those things happen in the struggles. And every time God brings me through another battle I find myself thanking Him. For His power. For His faithfulness. For the amazing way He takes the bad - and makes it good.

And I know, He's gonna keep on doing it - no matter what the age of my children.



Angela said...

Yes to ALL! Great post...thanks for setting the record straight! :-)

Karen Hossink said...

Angela - I'm so glad you liked it. ;-)