Once my toddlers-with-a-death-wish became school age and my perpetual game of "Eyes on the Diminutive Demolition Crew" was over, I thought parenting would be easier. No more embarrassing calls (yes, plural) to poison control reporting my son's fondness for backyard mushrooms or diaper rash cream. No more sprinting to snatch a future mountaineer before he or she nose-dived off yet another soon to be obstructed household pinnacle, and no more frenzied searching of circular clothes racks in the mall's largest department store...where my daughter played unannounced games of hide-and-seek.
In my mind, older children meant reason would replace impulsiveness, family members could function more independently of one another, and household chores would be distributed to relieve Mom's workload. I could blissfully return to a full-time career; balance triune roles of wife, mother, and professional; help financially support a comfortable lifestyle; and find time to pursue personal interests. Delusional.
Somehow I neglected the parenting pamphlet explaining that raising children does not simplify with each age-incremental stage. Only the challenges change. My dad's advice, "You've got to be smarter than they are," was appreciably easier to accomplish when "they" were two and five--versus twelve and fifteen. I was also ignorant that the same darlings who could be bribed or compelled to follow my schedule as toddlers would develop time-consuming, wallet-emptying, automobile-depreciating and laundry-multiplying customs called "agendas" upon entering school. Agendas contain social, academic, athletic, spiritual, entertainment, hunger-inspired, musical, and fashion elements. When teenagers are involved, each element's potency is raised to the thirteenth power.
Agendas highlight parent-child priority disconnects and generate difficult parenting decisions such as: What comes first...homework or friends? What is our family's activity saturation point? What (or whose) influences reside outside the boundaries of appropriate?
A difficult parenting decision surfaced this week when my son asked to spend spring break in Arizona with a trusted friend's family. Besides missing him, choosing to let Jesse go would place so many events outside my protective influences--from sunscreen slathering to a thirty-six hour round-trip drive. Somewhere in my fear-centered debate a quiet voice reminded, "You're not the one who keeps him safe." And I'm not. I am simply an instrument in the hands of the one who does. As I write these words, Jesse is traveling...and I am praying phrases from Psalm 91.
"Letting go" is one more reason an older child does not equal easier parenting. My mountaineers are still nose-diving off pinnacles, plunging into independent futures, and I can't always be there to catch them. I must continually choose to trust the hands that can.
It will be ok, though, because parenting will be easier when my kids are in college.