Does it really get harder? – 2018 edition

Each year I write a post reflecting on the state of family life. The first post in this series was back in 2009 when our youngest son was still a baby. At the time we had five kids under 10 life was full – both with joy, challenges and hard work. At this time in my life when I remarked to other parents that I looked forward to things getting easier as the kids grew older, many parents said to me it actually becomes harder.

This was something I simply couldn’t fathom at the time, so thought I would document the pulse of family life once a year and share how I was finding it. You can read previous posts here:

  • Late 2009 – Does It Really Get Harder?????. I contemplate comments from other parents with older kids who suggest that it actually gets harder as the kids get older! Our youngest was 10 months old at this time.
  • April 2011 – Easier……for the moment!. Not every individual part was easier, but overall I did feel family life was a little easier. Our youngest was 2 at the time.
  • April 2012 – Family Life – New Challenges. While the last year had brought new challenges for me, it was certainly easier in many ways than the last couple of years.
  • April 2013 – Family Life – Mostly Easier. Many elements of daily life were much easier as the kids grow in independence, but parenting a teenager posed some new challenges for me.
  • May 2014 – Family Life – Easier. Overall family life is definitely easier than when I first started writing this series in 2009 when our youngest was still a baby. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t have challenging parts. It does. But it is wonderful to see the kids growing up, developing their own opinions, styles and preferences.
  • Apr 2015 – Family life – the roller coaster years. The easier parts are really easy and the hard parts are really hard. While the hard parts are really hard, they don’t have the relentless frequency of the hard I had when the kids were younger. Overall it is easier, a bit like a roller coaster though with high highs and low lows.
  • Aug 2016 – Does it really get harder? – 2016 edition. My experience to date has shown me that how I feel about family life in terms of whether it is easier or harder, is very dependant upon my attitude and behaviour. Experience also helps. Handling a teenager second time around is definitely easier as I have made mistakes and learnt from them!
  • Aug 2017 – Does it really get harder? – 2017 edition. Day to day life was definitely easier. Adjusting to having an adult university attending (or not!) child in the house was challenging. My big learning from this year was that I had better coping strategies to get me through the harder parts like running, meditation and gratitude.

Even if you don’t blog, I can highly recommend writing down some thoughts on what family life is like for you at this point in time, then come back to it at this time next year and see how things are going.

In 2018 these are the ages and stages we are at:

  • a second year uni student (19 y.o son)
  • a year 11 student (17 y.o son)
  • a year 9 student (14 y.o daughter)
  • a year 6 student (12 y.o son)
  • a year 4 student (9 y.o son)

The easier parts

There are many parts of family life that feel easier at the moment:

School mornings

There are only four of the kids who are up every morning and need to be out of the house by a certain time. The uni student does his own thing when he goes and has cleverly organised his time table so there isn’t much requirement for early mornings. I exercise most mornings coming home just before 7am. Our daughter is always up and always bright and bubbly ready to chat – she is a morning person too!

The 17 year old and the 9 year old are generally up by 7:15am at the latest and are both independent in getting themselves ready. The 12 year old is a natural night owl often sneak reading so needs to be woken up by 7.30am at the latest. I will cook him a hot breakfast and sometimes one for the 17 year old as well. This is all done in a calm atmosphere most mornings with lovely chats along the way.

Most mornings I will have time to do something extra like fold laundry, wipe down the bathroom or play a game with the 9 year old. The mornings of having babies on hips and toddlers at my ankles and shepherding everyone out the door to get to school on time, seem a distance memory!

Homework / after school activities

All of the kids are very independent with their homework so other than helping out when asked, there is very little for me to do with this regard. Getting kids to and from after school activities is also so much easier as it is rare that I have to take more than the actual child who needs to be there – there is generally older kids home to be with the younger kids.

Night time routine

As the younger kids have had the same night time routine for so many years, there is very little I have to do. The younger two both shower now and know the drill on tidying up after they have used the bathroom, so while they are doing this I start on the lunch boxes. The flow on effect is that I get to bed earlier now (unless I become undisciplined with my time and that is my own issue!).

Weekends

Winter sport has kicked in our weekends are full of sport, but they are no where near as rushed and stressful as they were when the kids were all about five years younger. The older ones can get themselves to games if they need to and two weeks running the 17 year old took the 9 year old to his Sunday morning football games. The first week my husband was completing a half ironman and the second weekend I was in Brisbane completing a Spartan Obstacle Course Race, so we would have really struggled without his help.

The other lovely thing about the 17 year old year old doing this and spending time with his brother was that he offered to help out before I even asked him. On Sundays we often have a soccer game for one child and at least one football game if not two on at the same time for other kids. My husband is the coach of the soccer team so has to be at that game, leaving me to sort the other game/s. The 17 year old knows this and has also kindly offered to come along and do duties like boundary umpire for me if I am rostered to do it! Teenagers can be super thoughtful.

The harder parts

While there are some harder parts, over the year they haven’t felt really, really, really hard like they have in other years. It can be easy to complain about teenagers and all their annoying little habits, but they are also quite fun humans to be around. We have some great banter and I do enjoy their company. It does help to remember this when they are handing out some solid teenager attitude!

Meal times

Training times this winter mean it is really hard to have more than a couple of meals a week when all seven of us are present at the same time. I really don’t like this, but do my best to make sure that each child eats with either me or their dad, so they are not eating on their own. Timing of meals is also a bit challenging. While eating earlier still suits the younger kids and me, the older two boys don’t really like eating so early most days. Trying to find a time that is middle ground works well some nights, not so well other nights.

Sharing rooms

The two older boys share a room which is not their ideal set up. The fact that they share a room does bring up issues and challenges I have to manage that wouldn’t other wise be there if they had rooms of their own. This is something my husband and I just have to navigate to the best of our ability as it isn’t going to change any time soon and it certainly keeps us on our toes!

Letting go

While finding the right time to let go with the kids and by how much is something I find really hard, I have become much better at this over the last year. Again I have meditation and gratitude to thank for this. The thing I am finding particularly hard at this stage of life is the want by older kids to have more freedom, but not necessarily wanting the responsibility that comes along with it without a push from me or their dad. This would be by far the trickiest part of parenting for me at the moment.

Overall

Overall the last year of parenting was easier than the year before. In last year’s post I wrote that:

Every few years, I go through what I have dubbed “learning years” and 2017 is one of them. 2013 was a big learning year for me, as out eldest was in Year 9 and was very much teaching me all about adolescent boys. I made lots of mistakes that year and the next, but those experiences helped me greatly when our second child was in year 9 last year and continues to help me this year too while he is in year 10.

So as I struggle adapting to being parent of an adult child who is undertaking first year uni, I remind myself that this is a learning year and I will make mistakes. I am reading more and have gone to a couple of parenting presentations to pick up tips for this stage.

Not for one minute do I think I have the adult / older teenager child parenting gig sorted yet and I probably never will, but I feel more confident in my parenting and while there are still hard moments, there are not as many as there were last year. And the reason for this is not due to any real change in the kids’ behaviour but due to me changing how I respond.

I am loving having more in depth conversations with the teenagers and having full on conversations on issues we disagree on but in a respectful manner. I am cherishing the last year of walking a child to primary school (once they turn 10 they can walk by themselves). I am watching with fondness as the 12 year old experiences his last year of primary school and before he starts his journey into secondary school and adolescence. And most of all I am grateful for my gorgeous husband and the family we have created.

What about you? Was the last year easier or harder for you?

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Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash

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