Thursday, January 10, 2008

Does it get any Easier?!

I don’t think it matters whether you have one child or a dozen, at some point – or at many points – you are going to wonder aloud, “How old does the kid have to be before raising them gets any easier?”

I don’t have an answer and I have four of the suckers, ages 11 to 24. So one would think I might have some sage advice. And yet I don’t. Certain ages seem easier to negotiate than others, but crucial mitigating factors sneak in there, and one mother’s easy is another mother’s walking, talking nightmare. Not comforting, I know.

I was recently moaning over the telephone to my sister-in-law out in Wyoming about some teenage trial or other. She said to me, “Well, Julie, it’s not your first time at the rodeo.” One doesn’t have to be from a western mountain state to fully appreciate that statement. And it’s a pretty great one, isn’t it? “Not your first time at the rodeo” is now taped to my computer. Perhaps it will become a new mantra. And when I say it I picture myself as either the rodeo clown – dodging and weaving and being laughed at – or as one of those fairly confident looking, really cool, fringy and fuzzy chaps- wearing cowboys sitting high and solid aboard a bucking bronc. I’m twirling my hat around my head, yee-hawing, just before I am catapulted off and up and head-first into manure.

I would have to say that the teen years are the hardest, the most challenging, but that statement seems a no-brainer. With hormones and identity-searching raging, being a teenager and RAISING a teenager is fraught with conflict and confusion. Yet as stated earlier, mitigating factors can make the teen years either a piece of cake or a piece of scat. It’s in the “lap of the gods,” as my late, great mom used to say.

Blake wasn’t an altogether awful teenager. He was and is a man of few words, friends, wants and needs. Any “age-appropriate” faux paus’ were few and far between. His younger by two years brother, Kenny however, was the opposite – more words, more social commitments and needs and wants that seemed bottomless. Where Blake erred on the side of caution, Kenny decided early into his teens that “caution” was a concept for and of which he would not have any part. My teen daughter, Janet, is not unlike her brother Kenny – right down to the same birth date – yet the factor that makes her experiences different is that she is female. That’s something we have not experienced in terms of the teenaged years, so things are at times really foreign. Are girls easier than boys, or the other way around? If I comment on the truth here either Janet or Kenny will likely poison my morning Diet Coke, so perhaps I’ll go with “it’s a toss up.”

The middle school years aren’t a walk in the park either, and my fourth and final child is right smack in the, well, middle of them. Even though it’s a been-there-done-that thing I can nonetheless occasionally be discovered curled up in the fetal position wailing, “Does it get any easier?” By now one would think I’d know the answer. I do, I do know the answer, and it is “Not yet.” Although, to be fair, Jack is hands-down the easiest child I have had to raise, but at only 11, there’s still plenty of time to terrorize. I need to be cautious not to become too complacent… he can execute a sneak attack at any moment.

“I couldn’t hit a wall with a six gun, but I can twirl one. It looks good.” ~ John Wayne

While raising children doesn’t truly get any easier, I can at least try and look as if I’m doing it in a fairly effortless manner. You know, “act as if…” Act as if I know exactly what to do when a tantrum presents itself, or a kid forgets to phone on mother’s day, or a son doesn’t feel like working full-time, a daughter doesn’t realize the meaning or purpose of a clothes hanger, or a sixth grader insists that his bedtime can be just as late as a ninth grader’s. Act as if I don’t long to escape to my own private island, sans everybody and anything but some sunscreen.

I suppose easy isn’t interesting. Which makes my life quite the rodeo indeed.

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