Monday, May 4, 2015

Parenting the Older Child

{I want to preface this post by answering the question everyone is asking.  Or maybe you're not. Though  our youngest child is creeping up on 5-years-old, Brian and I do not claim that our family is "done" or "complete." We are living in a season of contentment and trust, with the assurance that God has full control of the future of our family.  While it doesn't seem that it is His plan to bring us more children right now, we don't know our tomorrow.  This post is written from the path I am living now-- a house devoid of babies and toddlers.}

I was talking with a friend a few months ago and she asked me I find that mothering gets harder as my kids get older.  She was wondering if the trials of toddler-hood seem inconsequential when the elementary and early teen years hit. I can say with confidence that watching my children grow into the people God wants them to be is an immense pleasure, worth every minute of  uncertainty or worry on my part. I'm sure every mother has a varying idea of what makes mothering difficult, but for me, being the mom of older children is not harder.  It is simply (or not-so-simply) different. 

I no longer have a nursing baby that travels everywhere I go and no one clings to my leg as I walk out the door.  I don't cook dinner with a baby on my hip or with someone whining in a high chair.  I don't keep a stroller in the back of my van, buy diapers at the grocery store, or carry extra clothes in my purse.  I don't sleep with one ear open to a little one's stirrings and I get seven hours of sleep almost every night. It's been years since a child has colored with crayon on the walls. Major spills don't happen daily and if someone does spill a whole cup of milk, they usually clean it up themselves.  I know longer have to buckle any seat-belts besides my own.

I'm learning, though, that the mom of older children needs to employ an entirely new set of skills.

I'm learning to keep my mouth shut when my kids pick out their clothing in the morning. I'm teaching hygiene and reminding them (over and over and over) why it is important to take a shower and brush their teeth. I'm having to speak on the touchy subject of deodorant. I'm talking about why we eat healthy foods even if we don't like them.  

Mothering older children takes me beyond meeting physical needs, too. I am creating a place of safety-- not just physical safety, but a place to voice concerns and feel secure.  I listen without interrupting. I show interest in endless Lego talk, try not zone out when she's telling a story about what she saw when she took the dog for a walk, and  laugh at corny jokes. 

I guide them in how to work out disagreements, remind them not to tattle, and demonstrate kind speech.  This is an area wit which we struggle daily.  Some days the arguing escalates until I want to pull my hair out!

I model hospitality, inviting people into our home and letting the kids clean, cook, and prepare alongside me. When taking meals to those in need, I loosen the grip on my controlling tendencies and let them help decide what to bring.  We shop, cook, and deliver as a team.

I'm teaching stewardship-- with their money and the things that we own.  I have to guide them in money management while letting them be free to make their own decisions.

I spend more time in the van, driving them to various activities.  Our grocery bill is higher because bigger people equals bigger appetites. The laundry is out of control. The bathroom rarely stays clean for more than a day.

I'm a firm believer that all the effort of the baby and toddler years will pay dividends-- that speaking soothing words to a cranky baby, loosing sleep with a child who wakes multiple times at night, handling tantrums, feeding picky eaters, and all the many, many frustrating tasks we perform as moms, will lay a firm foundation for the elementary and teen years.

So, yes, mothering older children is different, more complicated perhaps, but one of the most joyful undertakings we can imagine.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.   James 1:12


  1. I now am in the no more babies stage. But I can say, having kids range from 26 to almost 10 that parenting changes as our kids age, but it gets better, if as you say, you lay the foundation for relationship with your children while they are young.

    My kids are my dearest friends now, the ones I spend the most time with, and I delight seeing them married, as parents and even still growing!

    I love being a mom.


    1. I look forward to the relationship with my kids growing into deep friendships as they grow older. I'm loving each stage that I experience as a mother, but I must say I am thoroughly enjoying where I am now!

  2. I know theoretically that new issues arise as children get older, but I have to admit sleeping through the night sounds wonderful :)

    I think you're a great mom, Kristin, and I pray the hard work you and Brian have put in will pave the way to increasingly joyful relationships with each or your kids.

    1. Yes, the sleeping through the night is wonderful. I wasn't sure where we were going to get there because Ben was up at least several times a week until less than a year ago. Of course, at least getting up at night is a black and white issue. The issues of older parenting takes a little more mental energy.


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