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On The Eve of My Oldest Son Turning 18

Nov09

by

A Letter to My Younger Self

Hey Chris,

I want to tell you that you have done it! You will raise a human being to adulthood. Both of you will come out of it alive and unscathed.  Well, except for your boobs.  Gravity and years of nursing will not be kind.  Flash everyone now while you have the chance.

The years will fly by, I know right now you can’t believe that. But I am telling you as I sit on the other side of parenting, eighteen years in, that they will. Each year picks up speed. Life has a momentum that you cannot imagine today, in the early years when a day lasts an eternity.

Right now you have babies. They take up all of your time. You are waiting for the day when things will ease up, when you won’t be so exhausted all the time. I want to tell you it will happen. One day no one will wake up in the middle of the night, all the children will go to bed and sleep the entire night through. But you know what? Once you hit 40 you will be plagued with insomnia. Consider this preparation for going through life tired.

You don’t know yet how many children you are going to have. If I told you as you sat in that darkened nursery rocking your firstborn you would be frightened. There will be times when you wonder why you have so many children– when you feel like you are not giving any one of them the attention they deserve. But I am going to tell you now that you can’t imagine your life without each of them. Each one of them makes your life better. And louder. Best of all, you will never have to play a board game.

You are going to worry about a lot of things. The toys they play with. The way you discipline. The amount of TV they watch. The food they eat. That something you do will scar them for life and harm their delicate psyche. Stop worrying. I wish I could tell you that the past 18 years have been smooth sailing. I can not. But I do know that worrying won’t change a single one. The things you are the most worried about never come to pass. The things that will come up are those you never see coming. There will be heartaches. There will be boo-boos that a simple kiss cannot fix.

You are going to turn your fat baby’s car seat forward facing when he is four months old. You know what? It’s not safe. A decade later kids are rear-facing in their car seats until they are in middle school. I’m not even exaggerating! The good news is at least they can buckle themselves in by then. You don’t even know that is something you should worry about. See, so stop worrying. Also, plastic, lead in toys, high fructose corn syrup, crib bumpers, sunscreen, strings inside hoodies, window blinds … eighteen years from now you will marvel that any of your babies survived infancy. But they do and whether or not you made pureed peas from scratch or bought them in a jar doesn’t even factor into it.

You will learn that there are no awards given out at the end of your parenting journey for being a martyr.  I know, what a rip off!  At least we could get a wall plaque, right? Or a consolation boob job.

A Letter to My Younger Self: on Worrying by Chris Jordan for Alphamom.com

I can tell you with certainty that worrying did not make your picky children eat better, potty train faster, quit sucking their thumbs, read earlier, or be smarter. The same personalities you see in them as babies will carry through their childhoods. The colicky baby became the colicky toddler, became the colicky teenager, and probably will become the colicky adult. But hopefully he will live his colicky adult life in someone else’s house.  Everyone one of your kids can read, bathe themselves, is potty trained, can ride a bike, feed themselves, drink from a glass without spilling… and you cannot tell who learned to do these things at age three or who learned them at five.  None of them will ever master the art of loading the dishwasher or getting the dirty clothes into the hamper.  Be assured this is a defect in the Y chromosome and not at all your fault.

There will be days you will feel like the worst failure, but the good news is you still haven’t bought a Lunchable. It is the small victories that get you through.

In 18 years that baby you are holding will be a man. A man close in age to where you are right now. That protectiveness you feel is still there, but you have been forced to slowly let him go. Especially when he wouldn’t consent to be locked in the house forever.  This might be the hardest part, watching him step out into his own life and make mistakes, guiding him without nagging, balancing his need to be autonomous with your need to cling to his legs and beg him to not leave home. You will want to shout at him as he walks out the door, “I have kept you alive and well for 18 years, don’t mess this up for me now!”

In 18 years you will wish you could go back and live it all again. Try to remember that on the toughest days. Be as kind to yourself as you are to every one else.

Love,
Me

About the author

Chris Jordan

http://notesfromthetrenches.com
Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she writes about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children.

Yes, they are all hers.

No she's not Catholic or Mormon. Though she wouldn’t mind having a sister-wife because holy hell the laundry never stops.

Yes, she finally figured out what causes it. That's why her youngest is almost 6.

Yes, she has a television.

She enjoys referring to herself in the third person.

If you would like to submit a question for Chris to answer publicly, please do so to adviceforparentsoftweens[at]gmail[dot]com.


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8 Responses to “On The Eve of My Oldest Son Turning 18”

  1. jennifer Nov 10 at 8:36 am Reply Reply

    oh, Chris. That was lovely.

  2. Jos Nov 10 at 3:17 pm Reply Reply

    Are you the future me? Crying and still laughing about the Lunchables. My girl is 4, my son is 1 and there may be more to come…(not committing to that), but I’m going to print this out and keep it in my journal as an amazing reminder. So beautifully put. Thank you. And congratulations mixed with courageous hugs.

  3. Liz Nov 10 at 6:57 pm Reply Reply

    What a lovely sentiment. I will have to take your word for it, but we have some really dark days with our special needs toddler, and I often look at her and wonder, “Are you going to turn out ok? Are we going to make it? When do you start school?” I hope I can write a letter like yours someday.

  4. Carrie (in MN) Nov 11 at 10:53 am Reply Reply

    Sign me up for the consolation boob job! Really nice piece Chris. I’m a step behind you (oldest turning 17 this month) and still trying to wrap my head around how the baby I was so worried about breaking during his comically awkward first bath has turned into a 6’3″ guy who has learned to not break me when we roughhouse.

  5. threewildthings Nov 11 at 2:07 pm Reply Reply

    Oh gosh. This made me cry. Thanks for the reminder to “not sweat the small stuff” and to really enjoy every second of your children’s childhood without letting so much fretting get in the way.

    My boys are 7, 3 and 1 and sometimes the days go by so slowly that I can’t wait until they go to bed. I am exhausted all the time. But this beautifully written post reminded me that one day they will be adults and I’ll probably miss the sound of each of their loud voices along with all the chaos.

  6. Erin@MommyontheSpot Nov 16 at 10:06 am Reply Reply

    I am glad that I found this post today.  I needed to read something like this.  My youngest is a 3 year old boy, and there are moments when I am feeling like the biggest failure ever.

    I am bookmarking this to read on a as-needed basis.

  7. Kelly Nov 22 at 9:05 am Reply Reply

    Well written! I have two teenagers and remember those endless days of sleep deprivation, worry, and toddler energy. They do grow and do more than you can ever expect. For the parent who commented about special needs kids, liz, they do become who they are supposed to be and I can absolutely promise that with the pain, there are very bright moments and days where you marvel at how whole they are. How everything is more than you could have expected. How proud you are at every small accomplishment. Hugs to the mamas!

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