The most patronizing thing you can say to me

As you might have guessed from the longevity of this blog, I like to discuss parenting issues. I’ll compare notes with any parent, any time. I often find it’s the first area of common ground I establish with someone — do you have kids? If not, there’s always the default – do you have parents? It’s failsafe!

I remember one day in the waiting room of the pediatrician’s office, a mom and I compared our babies. Lucas was maybe six months old, Simon just turned four and a half, and we spent quite a while swapping anecdotes of the baby years. The funny thing was, her son was sitting beside her drowning her out with his iPod as he flipped through the latest Macleans. He must have been at the very top end of the age group for a pediatrician, maybe 15 or 16 — old enough to wear a trench coat and have stubble, anyway. But she blithely went on describing his various toddler exploits as if he were still in preschool. It was utterly charming, and only the tiniest bit creepy.

You know what really drives me bananas, though? I really hate it when parents of teens or adult children haul out that hoary old nugget: “Little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems.” I find that the most dismissive, patronizing, and downright annoying thing one parent can say to another. It’s even more annoying than the hyper-competitive mom who wants to make sure her baby is hitting all its milestones before yours, or the whole slacker-mom movement. (Really? Don’t get me started.)

I get what they’re saying, these condescending parents who diminish the daily struggles of life with little kids by insinuating that life with teenagers is so much more complex and fraught with peril. Now I’ll give you that toddlers rarely come home with random body piercings, preschool is virtually flunk-out-proof, and the only substance I worry about my seven-year-old abusing is his brother. I’ll admit that when things do go wrong in the teen years, there is always the potential for things to go catastrophically wrong in a life-altering sort of way. But I still don’t think that the actual parenting of a teen is so much harder than parenting a preschooler.

In fact, I’ll put it right out there and argue that parenting a child is WAY more labour-intensive than parenting a teen. I think the parents of older children have more freedom than do parents of schoolage kids, and I’m willing to gamble they get more sleep. When kids gain independence, so do their parents. Of course, the emotional investment is the same and I’m in no way saying that you somehow disengage from your children as they get older (hell, I’ve shown no signs of disengaging from my mom and I passed 40 this summer!) but I think the bulk of the parenting “effort” if I can call it that, is expended in the first 15 years or so.

The crux of it is that I truly cannot accept that any stage of parenting will be as traumatic, as transformative, as hard as parenting that squalling newborn. And anyone who has rose-coloured memories of the sweetness that is the toddler years is welcome to come to my house tonight between 4 and 6 pm and witness the debacle that is a our feisty, moody and endlessly adorable not-quite-two-year-old during the arsenic hours. Bonus points if you can entertain him (because he missed you all day while you were at work), supervise the homework, get dinner on the table, ask the middle child about his day, make the lunches, clean the kitchen, and sort the paperwork from the school without wanting to curl up in a ball and rock yourself to sleep on the dining room floor. Surely this is not simply a function of the quantity of kids in my house — it has everything to do, I think, with the fact that there is just more of me required in every hour of their lives than will happen when they’re 16 and trying to have the absolute minimum amount of contact with me.

Of course, I have only sang the first couple of verses of this particular song. My oldest will turn eight in March, so I can really only comment on the first half of the equation. So I bring it to you, bloggy peeps. What say ye? Is there merit to that hoary old nugget, or am I right to bristle when I hear it? Is it really any harder to parent older kids and teens?

(Although if it is, I’m not sure I want to know about it!)

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian. storyteller, photographer, mom to 3. Professional dilettante.

33 thoughts on “The most patronizing thing you can say to me”

  1. I have been guilty of saying this (only 5 1/2 years in), but here’s why:

    I agree that having a baby (doesn’t matter what number) is transformative and HARD. There are certain things that get easier as time goes on and you get to know your child, and even easier when they can communicate back to you, and even easier when they can do more things for themselves. (Like last night, when my 3 year old had an accident overnight–he arrived to tell me already naked from the waist down, so I just had to get him new underpants…and invite him into my bed.)

    But the smaller your child is, the less complicated their interpersonal relationships. It starts with a small circle of relatives, then more relatives & friends, perhaps another caregiver. By kindergarten you’re dealing with all of those people PLUS upwards of 20 of their peers, teachers, etc. Negotiating all of those relationships vis a vis my children’s unique personalities in addition to our family’s needs and values is where things can get very hairy for me. Just today my 5 yo’s closest school friend dissed her invitation for a playdate because I would not allow them to watch TV here at 2 in the afternoon. (Chez nous TV is reserved for the witching hour, and never ever while a friend is over–a friend is over to play!) My daughter was devastated. These are things that don’t happen with infants.

    I also think it will be very hard to walk the line between being present and being overpresent in the life of a teenager…

  2. Hmmm…. its a tough one. Bottom line is I don’t think any parent should belittle another parent with that argument – but I would argue that parents of teens may have more sleepless nights than you might think – and they are most likely based on big(ger) worries. For small infants & children, our worries as parents are along the lines of… he didn’t poop, or she’s biting others, or he doesn’t like to share his toys… these things require some parenting and some praying – but I would much rather being doing that, than worrying about whether my teen is out having unprotected sex, doing drugs, or stealing from the local corner store.

    I don’t think the big or small problems argument is a good one, but I do think parenting doesn’t get any easier the older your child gets – I think it gets more complex. Each stage of a child’s life is challenging for parents… and I think parents have to respect one another’s concerns no matter what age their children are.

  3. Wow…I’m only in the toddler-into-preschool stage myself, but I do know what you mean, in a way. One thing I heard CONSTANTLY – and always from perfect strangers! – when my son was just a babe, was “Oh, he’s so cute…enjoy him now because when they start to talk it’s all downhill!” (or something similar). I hated that! I kept thinking “What, because you now have to navigate negotiations and explanations instead of enjoying your dictatorship, you’re not having ‘fun’ anymore?!” Honestly, why do some people have kids?! Having children is not about making life easy and convenient but it is truly one of the most enriching, wonderful experiences and I feel blessed and honoured to be a mom – even on the harder days. Thanks for this post!

  4. I think there is never an age that I’ve enjoyed Reid than this one – regardless of how old she is. I made a conscious decision to be present with her and not long for the past or anticipate the future. Consequently, I don’t think that there has ever been a more difficult time than the present since I am investing my parenting energies in the here and now.

    The idea of someone commenting on having it easy with a small child is offensive because it involves a judgment and minimization of what is reality for a parent. We’re supposed to be on the same team – as parents or simply as humans – raising kids. I don’t have time for judgey people. Parenting a 5 year old is hard enough (and joyous and amazing and …)

  5. I hear that phrase a lot from my neighbour who is a mom of a 15 year old girl and a 13 year old boy. It’s true that I don’t want to belittle the issues of having children (potty training, sleepless nights, etc), but the thoughts of the “bigger” issues of under-age drinking, dating, sex are very overwhelming for me. And they can seem like “bigger” issues than the ones that I’m dealing with now.

    However, I am using this as my motivation to have all my ducks in a row for when they do hit the teen years. I want to know that I have the right tactics for handling those situations.

  6. Part of the reason that I parent the way that I do, is that I hope by putting in extra effort now, it will make the teen years easier. There are no guarantees, of course, and I haven’t been on the other side of the fence yet. However, I do think that in general having a close and respectful relationship with your kids and teaching your kids life skills/common sense when they are little, will make the teen years easier to get through. For me parenting is about focusing on the long-term, not just what is easiest in the short- term.

    I also think that different parents will find different aspects of parenting easy/hard. I find the newborn stage to be the easiest stage. My son was fairly high needs, but at least I felt like I could always meet his needs. My daughter was incredibly easy going and I could have easily worked full time while she slept on me/next to me for the first 6 months. All she needed was my breast and my touch to be happy. I’ll go on record as saying that for me, the three year old stage is by far the most challenging.

  7. I suppose it depends on the personalities of the kids and the parent, but I found that parenting got way easier once each of my kids was old enough to carry on a conversation. My youngest child was a colicky baby who would just cry and cry — could not be comforted — and that was so frustrating. Teenagers are so much easier because you can talk to them and find out once going on. Plus, they sleep a lot.

  8. I remember what I was like, starting around 12. If mine are ANYTHING like me, I will be BEGGING for the 5 year old problems again.

    I don’t think the way I was at 14 or 16 can touch tantrums or food jags or weird ear aches. But that’s just me.

  9. Great topic. One thing to keep in mind is that when your children become teenagers you become parents who have parented for an extended period of time. I know that my Mom got to a point after raising 4 kids (with a 10 year age gap between the two sets) that she was DONE parenting, but that the kids had not moved out yet. After being a parent for the last 10 years myself and with potentially 10 more years to come I can understand where she was coming from. This job never ends! I do think parenting teens will be harder than young kids. I was prepared for babies and toddlers and still very fresh. When my girls become teenagers I will be going through menopause – not a good combination.

  10. Parenting teenagers is difficult on a mental level. Wen they are babies you are not nogotiating the way you do when they are older. As for getting more sleep, that one could be disputed too. If they play hockey (or soccer)the arenas leave those late hours to the older kids. Then what about the waiting up because they have broken curfew (or in my case, sneaking out of the house at all hours). And the phone ringing at all hours and waking you up. Yes, the problems get bigger and so are the concequences. Never the less, you still love them. What I have found critical is having both parents on board with parenting. Consistency is still very necessary during those teenage years as they were in the early years.

  11. Bravo! It drives me crazy too. Absolutely batshit crazy. It’s so dismissive. Any person who can be dismissive to a sleep deprived, likely unshowered, spit up bespeckled Mommy, absolutely forgets what it’s like.

  12. I don’t think I agree with you on this one. I am a couple of years away from having a teen but so far I thought the baby stage was the easiest and my most favourite. I don’t forget that it was hard, but I find it easier with babies. I remember only to well how little sleep I got. My kids didn’t sleep through the night until they were school aged. I can remember at one point when my son was a little over 2 listening to a husband talk about his wife and how tired she was having to get up with the new baby. I wanted to scream and/or cry. I was still getting up 3 to six times a night and hadn’t a full nights sleep since my daughter was born 6 years earlier. That fall the nights were really hard and my 2 was really driving me batty in the sleep department but I still think it was easier than dealing with my preteen daughter. I really worry about all the trouble teens can get into and I think when the time comes I would rather be dealing with projectile vomit and dirty diapers.

    Ofcourse I could be wrong, I will have to wait and see.

  13. My kids are now 14 and almost 11. I agree that kind of comment is patronizing. I don’t think easier/harder or little/big problems are valid dimensions or comparisons; parenting is challenging, period. And rewarding. What I’ve found as my kids have become older is that I do have more independence from the constant level of need they had when they were younger. But now their needs aren’t as easy for me to meet. Cuddling helps when your daughter is sobbing and hearbroken over betrayal by a friend, but it doesn’t really go far enough to solve the problem. So much of their time is away from me and in relation with other people, and I don’t get to observe much of it first-hand, but only have access to what they are willing to share with me. And when they open that door a crack at a moment when I am tired and distracted and trying to do seventeen things, I have to be very careful that I don’t lose that opportunity for meaningful communication, because I won’t always get it back.

  14. I just wanted to say I love the term “arsenic hours” and I DREAD the hours between 4 and 6 (I have a 3 yo and a 5 month old) – and I count the minutes until bedtime. Ob viously, I am far away from the teen years but I think there are trials and tribulations at any age. Each has their own problems, their own hardships, yet in totally different ways. Of course, I may be looking up this post to write a new comment in 10 years 🙂

  15. I like to make the distinction between “hard” and “complicated.” Parenting a teenager can be complicated, I’m sure, but it’s not hard in the way that parenting a newborn is hard. A lot depends on your personality, as jo(e) said – personally, I feel equal to the task of analyzing and sorting through the social obstacles my children face, but I was clearly NOT equipped with the patience needed for the newborn/toddler years while I was going through them.

  16. Probably the best advice I’ve ever heard was that parenting should be looked at as a marathon–not a sprint. We need to reserve our energy for the challening teenage years, and be ready to meet the problems head on…not be exhausted from battling through the early years. Now, I have a 4yo, 2 yo, and am expecting our third, so I’m not really sure how to do this, but it’s definitely something I’m trying to keep in mind 😉

  17. I totally agree that parenting young children is difficult…the hardest thing I have ever done by far. I absolutely loved being the Mother of teenagers. They were engaging, thinking ,intelligent and funny. They were the happiest time of being a parent…other than now, ’cause they are all grown up and gone…… and I can see we did a pretty good job. I am not saying that parenting teenagers is always easy but they can discuss, talk about issues and think about the incredibly stupid and thoughtless thing they just did. I hope most of you will look forward to those years instead of dreading them.

  18. oh!!!! me!me!me!!!!!
    i have the inside track here, having had a extremely high maintenance newborn the same year my oldest turned into one of those evil, harder than thou teens.
    guess what…
    it didn’t happen.
    for me, at least.

    i think this one is so dependent on who you are speaking to. i am loving the whole teenage experience ( he is 14 now and full on into high school and friends and girls AND stubble and texting and and and…) and personally do not find it anywhere near as exhausting as having a newborn…but wait.
    this teen I have? was not a hard baby, or toddler or 7 year old, or eleven year old…he was just easy-ish. he had his issues of course ( trust me, we have been through the gamut with him for many reasons ) but he was and is a charm to raise. he is in the room with me right now, giving me a hug while entertaining his baby brother. nice kid:).

    (although my girlfriend whose “good” 15 year old was hauled out of the woods two weeks ago by paramedics, unconscious from drinking and hypothermic, might have a completely different take on which stage is harder yet again…)

    maybe it is then kid dependent…because i have an extremely difficult baby ( for many reasons that are not his fault and as we discover the why’s, the difficulties are diminishing…) and i can not imagine anything harder or more trying on a mom, dad, family…

    because if you want to start talking about raising girls? then have i got a girl for you;) – she, at times, has made the nonstop screaming infant seem like an oasis in the chaos that is preteen girlhood;)…
    (she is 10).

    see? i am willing to dismiss all other parental complaints in lieu of how hard it is to raise a girl:) and a fussy baby,lol.
    but i have recognized that is just my shortcoming as a parent that I find these areas so challenging and try to deal with it, without dismissing the trials of others.
    especially arsenic hour:).

    and may i ask a question? wtf is up with the competitive parenting that goes on between strangers.
    i brought my little one out to gymnastics today for the first time…and within minutes, it had started. Over allergies no less… the parental dance around who’s kid is more allergic. wtf??? seriously. can we just not both agree that it sucks to have kids that have allergies. i had been out of the baby game long enough to forget about this part. not too happy about seeing that it so has not changed in 13 years. sigh.
    the baby thing is hard. i need more sleep if i am going to deal with this,lol.

  19. I agree with SC’s post.

    Dani, I completely understand (and am currently going through) toddler-induced sleep-deprivation…but I in no way want to trade this in for the other type of sleep-dep…the “where is my 16-year-old?” or the “well, I should stay awake until his curfew and make sure he gets home okay,” or the “I’m sure she’s a good driver…isn’t she?”

    You said it yourself…in the teen years, problems/issues can potentially be life-altering.

    I am not saying these early years are a cake walk (they certainly aren’t for me). But that’s the whole point…every parent out there has their own views, their own experiences, their own coping strategies. Instead of judging or belittling, we need to be understanding that everyone’s situation is unique. You espoused some fairly sharp opinions yourself in this very piece (what is a “competitive” mom, and who are these “slacker moms” you speak of?).

    Love this blog…this piece is exactly why I read you daily. You get me thinking, and wanting to debate. Merci!

  20. My parenting hero, Barbara Coloroso, says that you should be finished parenting by the time your kids are 16 or so. By that time you should have given them sufficient guidance that they’re largely independent of you. And so, believing that and aiming for it myself, I will agree with you.

    (Although I fear that in doing so I will anger the parenting gods and be bitten in the posterior about 12 years from now, I’ll be honest.)

  21. Interesting…here’s my take, and I have a 13yo, 3yo and an 8 month-old. The youngest two children are the most labour-intensive in the physical sense – they can’t bathe, clothe, eat, etc. themselves. The sleep issue is draining and is a daily battle. I haven’t slept in nearly 14 years and there are days where it is downright dangerous…I really don’t like grocery shopping with a baby and a toddler, but this is heightened in the winter. It seems to take me 3 hours to do something I could get done within an hour myself sans kids…but it’s really not stressful…just exhausting. I love having my kids around me – just wish I could go the bathroom by myself without my entourage of kids and the dog wanting to be there at the same time!!

    My tween is a good kid – she gets good grades and has a good head on her shoulders…so far. However, she is the most work. Between running to piano lessons, competitive sports that require her to start at 7am (read mom or dad has to get up at 5:00am to get her there) often consume the entire weekend and many evenings, and a significant portion of our income…and I haven’t even mentioned HOMEWORK yet! I haven’t had any issues with her yet…I’m sure they’ll come…but recently a few of her fellow athletes showed up to their ski training hungover. She also informed me that many of the kids are “sexting”, along with some other stuff. My set of concerns for her are entirely different. Trying to balance the right amount of freedom to give her in order for her to feel independent is a delicate balance. I’m having ulcers just thinking about her driving! The point is parenting teens and young children each have their hardships, but in the end, I’d have to say parenting teens is harder.

  22. Hey all, I just wanted to say how much I am enjoying reading all of your comments. The range of opinions is fascinating, and several of you make good points on how emotionally draining it can be to parent a teenager.

    Just wanted to say that above all I appreciate the respect and the complete lack of “us against them” sniping that might have occurred. Thanks and keep the great comments coming!

  23. I think this would be a very interesting post for you to flag and come back to in 10 years. I’d be interested to know what your experiences and opinions are then. I’m looking forward to reading about it.

  24. Wow! I have been through teenage parenting and it is not easy, even though, in retrospect they are both good kids. The police were only involved once, and they seem to have good moral values, and are both in university. I think i just had really good material to work with.

    But… I worry way more about these two than about my 8 year old. These days if I dont have a good night’s sleep it is not related to the child, but the teens – just hoping everything is OK, they are not in an accident due to drunk driving, they make proper decisions, they dont get fired, they dont have their poor hearts broken, they find their way in life to have a good job and a loving family, that they dont need to suffer through divorce ( and they’re not married yet), that they find mates who treat them like they deserve to be treated… etc. And I am not even the worrying type of person!

    I will summarize it by saying it is different with teens than with babies/tots/children. It probably depends on the people involved and the challenging parts are completely different. I do love the personalities of teens – they bring so much enthusiasm and energy and they have alot to teach their parents. But in many ways I find it as tiring as mothering a little one. And it will never end because then there will be grandchildren to worry about.

    In the end, we are fortunate to have our families and I am thankful every day for what I have and who they are. Children are not a competition.

  25. Well, we have an almost 18 year old, a six year old and a two year old. The ages vary but, so do the problems. I agree that that statement is very patronizing. I would love to see you revisit this post in another 6-8 years though and see how you feel about three teenage boys in your house.

  26. My girl is 7 and a half, so we’ve got a ways to go before teen-dom. I’ve always been annoyed by people who predicted that this next year was going to be hard (oh, she’s 1! Enjoy it, b/c two year olds are so terrible. Three? that was such a rough year! etc.) Truth is, every year has been better and better in some respects and every year has brought different sorts of challenges.

    I can see that parenting a teen involves worrying about things that are less in front of me–so far, much of the stuff I’ve worried about I’ve worried about with CG right in front of me (her medical issues, her behavior, her learning X, Y, and Z). As kids get older they head out into the world more and that introduces other sorts of pressures and worries. But I don’t see the point of comparing the challenges: they come when they come, they are what they are, andit’s not really possible to enjoy a 4 year old more because you are comparing them to some future 16 year old, is it?

  27. “Arsenic hour” (*snicker*) – we totally had one of those in our house today when my daughter had a complete meltdown before, during, and after supper, and sobbed her way through eating. I could only get her to quieten by sitting with her and stroking her hair, she was so pathetically sad. And for no particular reason except that she may have been overtired because she didn’t nap long enough today, and possibly a little hungry (but by no means starving). It’s these sorts of situations that make me think that the early years are the hardest, because you are dealing with little ones who often can’t clearly communicate their needs to you (teenagers sometimes won’t, but it’s not the same as can’t), need you all the time, and also need you to do things around the house like make supper and do their laundry, while playing with them because they miss you while you’re at work and don’t understand that you can’t do four things at once (or maybe you can, but it burns you out). And then there’s the fact that you only occassionally get to sleep through the night – or is that just me?
    I’m not saying that teenagers aren’t hard, and I can’t speak from that experience yet, but I have to think that they’re not as all-consuming, and not as physically fragile as babies and toddlers. And maybe I’ll feel different when mine’s older, but I don’t appreciate being told that these are the easy years by people with older children – it terrifies me! 🙂

  28. As the parent of both a teenager AND a preschooler (single parent to boot – what WAS I thinking???), I can tell you with absolute confidence that they’re both hard. In completely different ways. My preschooler certainly needs more of me physically – doing for him, reading to him, working with him on various things and meltdowns. Oh the meltdowns! My teenager *wants* less of me in those ways, but needs more of me emotionally and mentally. And the meltdowns are different, but in certain ways still there. Hormones, donchaknow. There is so much more to the teen thing from a parent’s perspective than you can imagine until you get there. It’s all scary, but it’s 2 different types of scary. You go from “stranger danger” and “look both ways” to friends who smoke, use drugs, girls (or guys), lying (not all of them, but sadly – a lot and mostly out of what they perceive to be self-preservation) etc etc. There’s always something. Yes, bigger kids have bigger problems – one stupid move could change the entire life course – but is it harder? I’m living it and can’t really say. It’s just… different.

    Parents of teens don’t get more sleep, I’m sorry to report. I’m not up with nightmares or night terrors or the little guy stuff his brother brings, but with that one… he keeps me up worrying about whether he’s going to pass algebra or have to repeat it next year to get the credit and not carry a low grade on his transcript. I’m up worrying about the porn I found on his cell phone, sent by a friend. I lay awake worrying about that girl… ugh. Or if not getting elected to student council this year is going to cause self esteem issues (he’s fragile that way)… if it’s not one thing it’s something else.

    Parenting is hard, period, no matter what stage your kids are in. Yes, there is more physical freedom with older kids, but you worry so much more when you’re away from them because they’re on their own. No “responsible adult” to protect and ensure. Just them. Yeah… yikes. Especially on the few occasions I’ve let him watch his brother. Amazing my hair isn’t totally gray!

  29. Well said, Kate : “…I agree that having a baby (doesn’t matter what number) is transformative and HARD….”

    I think that many of my generation (my daughter is now 26) forgot that to raise a productive, independent-thinking member of society, one has to be willing to put the child’s best interests first for a number of years.

    Properly parenting a baby/toddler/young child is very labour-intensive, and I marvel at the insight and suggestions I see in this blog. I wish those kinds of resources had been available to me at the time, but I digress. Yes, young children require a LOT of effort. It is a very physically active and mentally demanding occupation, but more in the ‘how do I re-direct this energy?’, or ‘how do I convey the danger of this activity without scaring/scarring the child for life?’ sense.

    Parenting an older child (pre-teen, teenager) is also very demanding, but in very different ways. Mentally, you are constantly having to work at how much parenting is not enough and how much is too much. I know for myself, nothing caused me to question my sanity and my parenting abilities more than when my daughter was between 12 and 18. And, there is the Jekyll/Hide effect of hormones, which is very real in both genders.

    The saying, that it ‘takes a village’ to raise a child is very true. I found myself seeking advice from ‘the village’ much more often when my daughter was a teen than when she was a child, however as I personally found parenting the teen years much more challenging. I will often comment to friends/acquaintances with younger girls that there will be much fun to be had later on. This does not mean that I am belittling the effort required in raising a young child. I do, however, believe that for the most part, there is more at stake as they age: it is easier to ‘lose’ them, and the consequences can be disastrous.

    I was fortunate in that my then mother-in-law was my daughter’s daytime caregiver. She was therefore given all the advantages of a stay-at-home mom who knew how to give her varied experiences and good guidance. That made the teen years easier than they could have been.

    Yesterday, I sent my daughter this e-mail under the subject ‘What I hope I gave you’: “…Not my words, but they could have been: I don’t think that there are any easy answers – my childrens lives are likely to be very different from mine. I’ve no idea if any material provision I make now will be of any value when they are older.

    I try to teach them to think for themselves, how to search for answers, question why people are telling them things (including why I am telling them things), encourage a joy and fascination for the world and perhaps most importantly give them a loving and stable background from which to step out into the world. Hopefully it will stand them in good stead. ..”

    The response I got was this: “…check, check aaaaand check….yep you did it all 🙂 Love you!…’

  30. I’ve found every age to be challenging in its own way. And I know it’s very easy for me to look back on the challenges that I mastered and think, “oh, that was EASY, and THIS stage is kicking my ass.” So I don’t think I’ll have a full ability to answer the question until my kids are in their mid-twenties. But in general, I both agree with Jo(e) that age has brought some much-welcomed parental freedoms, and with the underlying idea that growing-up kids have a greater potential to cause parental heartache. There’s so much that’s beyond my control now. I mean, three teething toddlers who don’t sleep and who melt down every afternoon just as I want/need to get dinner on the table? Unbelievably stressful, but somehow (at least, from this vantage point — and of course that’s crucial) somehow still within my very stretched skill set. Child with mild anxiety disorder and a couple of mean kids teasing her at the lunch table? Much harder to help/fix.

    I do think there’s something to be said for sleep, though. And yeah, worried sleeplessness is bad. But I have to believe that teething-toddler sleeplessness is worse.

  31. Oh! I forgot — regardless of how I’d answer this question, I’d never answer it with the phrase you quoted. Because oh YEAH, that’s condescending. Plus, that sort of phrase only exists to spark conflict. Why go there?

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