I've been parenting for 24 years now... and I still have a kid in elementary school. In fact, we are in year 18 of 20 consecutive years at the local elementary school.
My husband and I managed to space out our children so that by the time our youngest leaves for college, we will have been at this parenting thing for 33 years -- and I'll be 60 years old. It exhausts me just to think about that, and while I love my five children more than I could possibly express, there are times when I feel more than a little worn out by parenting. In fact, I've been noticing a few signs that I have possibly been at it just a bit too long. Like...
- I am sick of sharing the credit with Santa Claus. I want to tell my youngest the truth NOW.
- I am feeling pretty done with Halloween, too. Why so much angst and often expense over a costume that gets worn once? Hand-me-down costumes are fine.
- I rarely check homework. I figure I'll hear from the teacher (or see on the report card) if stuff isn't getting done.
- I can't remember the last time I obsessed over a birthday party, let alone the party favors (I can't believe I actually made handmade ones once).
- It's getting harder to get enthusiastic about school concerts and plays. They are cute, but...
- I am totally faking interest at the school open house.
- It's been years since I went to a PTO meeting. Or joined a committee. (I'm letting everyone else have a turn, yup).
- I leave it to my youngest to pick out his clothes and brush his hair. Even when you can tell he did.
- Speaking of clothes, what's a hole or two? And does it totally matter if the pants are a bit short?
- And also speaking of clothes, I refuse to replace shoes until they are totally worn out or don't fit. I've spent way too much money already on shoes.
- I let my kids do their own school projects.
- I have given up on the super-healthy packed lunches (that came back mostly uneaten). My youngest two buy lunch every day.
- I mix up everyone's name constantly.
- I have given up on fighting the clutter. Or doing things like taking the basketball out of the bathroom. It can stay there.
- I can't be shocked by a story about a high school party.
- I think I've heard nearly every excuse for everything.
- It feels normal to have a slack line in the living room and toy airplanes on most surfaces.
- Bedtime is flexible if I'm enjoying what we are watching on TV.
- I'm really glad my youngest likes to read to himself in bed because I've read a million bedtime stories. At least.
I've done so many things a million times.
It's not that I don't like being a parent anymore. I love being a parent. I'm just worn out.
And even more, I'm done with sweating the small stuff. I've watched my two eldest graduate from college and get jobs and looking back on it all, I realize that I missed out on some great moments and stressed myself out because I was caught up in the small stuff. Yes, there are lots of tasks of parenthood--but at this point, I'm realizing that the important ones are relatively few. Most things have a way of working out despite us. We often make parenthood harder for ourselves than it needs to be.
So at this point in my life, I'm paring it down to the important stuff, and cutting myself some slack. I'm spending more time with the hugs and having fun. It goes by way too quickly to miss out on the hugs or the fun.
We are, however, going to have that chat about Santa Claus.