Adjusting to the stages of family life

Adjusting to the stages of family life

Adjusting to the stages of family life

I love the ages the kids are now. I love seeing them grow up to be good people who are contributing positively to the world around them. I love the in-depth conversations and debates we can have on current affairs and also on weird random topics. I love the freedom their independence brings to my life.

On the first day of school this year, I took a photo of the younger boys before they left for school – one is starting year 8 and one is starting year 10. I took the photo on the front step just like I did for the photo when the youngest first started school and was in prep with his older brother in year 2. I compared the two photos and marveled at how much our family has grown.

I have thought about that photo of them in prep and year 2 every day since. I see it in my mind clearly. The youngest with excitement brimming all of over his face and the second youngest with a look of calm and “I have done this all before” on his face.

I do miss having little ones. I miss the awe and excitement they have for even the smallest things in life. I miss their gorgeous giggles and unintentional funny statements they make. And if I am truly honest with myself, I miss how much they needed me and how much they wanted my company back then. If you currently have little ones and cannot find five minutes to go to the toilet by yourself, this may seem impossible to comprehend but I do miss it.

We have three adult children in the house and two teenagers. They are all very capable and independent for their ages and I do not wish to hold them back at all. I love watching this journey but it still does bring up with it some mixed emotions for me. I think these feelings have arisen for me now, as I know this year the two teenagers are taking further steps away from me and onto their journey of independence. This is on top of our daughter who has now finished school and is set to embark on uni life very soon, is working part-time, and has a full social life joining her two older siblings before her.

Parenting teenagers is a delicate balancing act of allowing them the freedom they need to grow, learn and mature and setting boundaries to keep them safe and provide structure and routine. This year as they move through secondary school there are new freedoms for each of the teenage boys. Combined with the new freedoms for our daughter this is a period of adjustment for me. It is an adjustment that requires me to do things like:

  • hold my tongue and not say “helpful comments” that will garner an eye role from the 15 year old because he already knows what I am about to tell him
  • let the 18 year old know I am here to help her with uni enrolment etc but leave it to her to come to me if she needs help and let her be
  • allow the 13 year old to go out with mates instead of the small activity we had planned
  • stop asking questions about the 15 year old’s day when it is amply clear he does not want to talk
  • trust the 13 year old can plan his train trip to get himself out and about with out me knowing what the exact plan is (and if gets himself lost he knows how to remedy this!)

I am having to think a lot before I speak at the moment. So much of parenting comes out of habit but in times of change, the habits need to change too. The best way for me to do this at the moment is to allow some time before I speak or act with the kids. This space I create, and it does not have to be much, even a few seconds can help, means that I can take a step back and assess what I should do now with where the kids are currently at. It helps me make better decisions. Please do not read into this that I am getting it right 100% of the time because I am not. And I know I am not because of the pushback that I get or the reaction I receive from the kids. I am definitely a work in progress!

Another contributing factor to my emotions at the moment is that many nights over the last couple of weeks there have only been the four of us for dinner – Phil, myself, and the younger two boys. We have a nice dinner and chat about our days but it is very different from having all of us at the table and we all feel that. Over the last two years with so many lockdowns we have grown so accustomed to having most of the family at dinner each night and I do love it that way and miss it when it isn’t like that.

As the year goes on, I know I will adjust more and the feelings will change as the new stage is established (for a while at least!). But it is important to recognise the new stage and to acknowledge that it requires change from me.

Is your family going through a stage change?

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