I thought having a baby was hard, and in many ways it was. The lack of sleep, the incessant worrying, the constant paranoia of never doing anything right or good enough were all very real, very valid fears. But then my baby grew and, well, everything that terrified me when she was a newborn has been intensified. So I can say with complete conviction that raising a 10-year-old is so much scarier that caring for a baby. Guys, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this parenting thing never gets easier.
I should preface all of this by saying that my daughter is the child that made me a parent. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing when she was an infant, and I'm sure as hell no more confident today than I was then. As she nears her 11th birthday, I can't help but reflect back on those early days when I struggled to find out how to care for my baby in an way that worked best for both of us. Everything I did felt wrong. In the big, scary world we live in, those anxieties haven't let up, either. Instead, they've been magnified.
My daughter straddles a fine line between girlhood and being a young woman. It's rare to see her playing make-believe with her younger brother, but every now and then she'll still refer to me as "mommy" and I remember that she's still that baby I once cradled every night. But then — because there's always a "then" — I'm forced back into reality when she does something only a 10-year-old would do, and I'm reminded how much more terrifying this stage is than anything I went through with her as a baby.
Discovering They Shaved Without Asking
A few days ago, I drained the bathtub after my daughter left the room, only to find a mass of hair clogging the drain. Apparently, she decided that was the day she'd shave her legs for the first time without ever mentioning it to me. She dodged the conversation when asked, which only told me she was embarrassed and uncomfortable. My guess as to why she randomly decided now was the time to shave? Since she's the new kid at a new school, someone probably pointed out how much hair she had on her legs. Because, kids.
Regardless of why, there mere thought of my "baby" with a razor is something I'm just not ready yet.
Allowing Them More Freedom
When my daughter was a baby, the only freedom she needed was during sleep time in her crib, or a little rock time in the musical swing. Now, she wants to spend more time alone in her room, leaving me to wonder how much space is too much space? And what is she doing other than cutting her clothes to pieces (true story)? How about we go back to the baby thing instead.
Having A More In-Depth Sex Talk
No, no, nope. I try to be as honest as possible when it comes to topics like sex, periods, love, and any other complex subject children will inevitably ask about. My parents were never forthright about these things and it made puberty and the early years of adulthood confusing. It was a lot easier to have these talks with my girl when she was, say, 5-years-old, and I could provide her with age-appropriate information that wasn't so layered. But now? Now I feel her cringe before I even get a word out. Believe me, kid, I don't want to say it any more than you want to hear it. But it has to get done.
Answering Complicated Questions With More Thought
Babies don't ask about death or religion, thankfully. They don't think about why good grades are important, or how to throw me off my game with a question about my cellulite. Babies don't ask hard questions because babies are awesome and clueless and fat and happy. But 10-year-olds do ask hard questions, and while they absolutely should and the answers they receive are vital, it's difficult to answer them. Which would I rather handle? You do the math.
Dealing With All Their Newfound Insecurities
As my daughter hinges on the precipice of puberty, she's, of course, extremely insecure. Her self-esteem is at an all-time low and try as my parter and I might to build her up, her body is changing, her face is breaking out, and she feels weird about her place on this earth and in her skin.
I remember going through the same stage, and feeling incredibly lost in the process. Nothing my parents did could've made me feel those things any less. So, basically, I'm screwed.
Dealing With Bullies
The older my kids get, the scarier parenting is. My daughter was bullied a bit in her younger years, but as she approaches middle school, the kids seem to be exponentially meaner. These days, I wish I could go back to rocking her to sleep and changing her diapers and worrying about what she may or may not be eating off the floor. Back then, I didn't have to think about bullies or how they made her feel about herself. Not only was it easier, but I knew I could make her feel safe no matter what was going on around her. It's not that easy, now.
Trying To Help Them Fit In While Standing Out
My daughter's always been the "stand out" kind of soul. She's vibrant and unique in her voice and clothing. I love her independence and ability to state her opinions, no matter who is around her.
The older she gets, though, the more I'm noticing just how important is to her that she fits in, at least a little. It's difficult for me to watch, because while I hope she doesn't lose her identity, I don't want her to be the target of bullying because she's different. Can't we just go back to watching her first steps? That was more fun, and a lot less daunting.
Realizing You're On The Brink Of Adulthood
Yeah, we're almost there. Someone hold me.
Dealing With The Continued, Elevated Tantrums
Not only do the tantrums not stop, but they get worse! When my girl was a baby, the fits might've been about wanting a toy she couldn't reach or protesting the meal I prepared. Now? It's one power struggle after another. I never thought I would miss the so-called "terrible twos," but I miss them. Oh, how I miss them.
Figuring Out What They're Old Enough To Handle
How do you know when your 10-year-old is responsible enough to do something? Babies don't have responsibilities, they just do baby stuff. But my daughter wants to shave (still not over it), babysit, and talks about all the things she'll do when she's "grown." Help.
Accepting That Their Friends' Influence Means More Than Your Own
I want to be the biggest influencer of my daughter's life, but now that she's a 10-year-old, I'm just... not. I still remember her big eyes when she'd blink up at me with gratitude after I swaddled her during those early days or motherhood, and I miss them. Now she looks at me in a completely different way. No matter what I do, her friends, and their opinions of her, are going to mean more than anything I do or say. As I watch her mature, I can only hope she takes all the lessons I'm teaching and uses them when the time serves.
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