I am on the grey side of 50 years old and have lived 18 years between raising two year old toddlers and now find the task much easier than it was when I was 30. Yep, easier. While some things are admittedly much tougher today than they were 20 years or so ago, getting through a day with a 2 year old isn’t one of them.
Yes, I’m one of those “old” dads and it may be surprising that I find anything easier today than it was almost 20 years ago. That being said and although others who fit my demographic may be minimal, it should offer comfort to parents, in general, that things we thought were so important or difficult when we were younger, just aren’t that tough this time around. So, here’s my list, in no particular order:
Diapers are not a big deal
When I was in my 20’s and my first child was born, my uncle pulled me aside and said, “I’ll give you one piece of advice. Don’t change a diaper. If you do, you’ll never stop.” He was right. Thirty years later, I am still changing diapers and the stink of sh** doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it did the first time around. Maybe my sense of smell is just gone.
I’ve Learned how to Enjoy Life
A person in their late 20’s or early 30’s may not naturally be the best person to raise a child. While the energy level is certainly fuller than a man of 50+, I can remember being worried about a lot more things than I’m worried about now – starting a career, hair falling out, whether people liked me or not, whether I have been to the newest most trendy restaurant, etc. – all things that keep you from sitting back and realizing that life is supposed to be enjoyed and not fretted over. That realization which comes only over time has helped when the toddler starts screaming because her socks have stars instead of flowers.
Dancing in Public is OK
I NEVER would have held hands with one of my older kids and danced around in a circle without music playing 20 some years ago. Now, it happens all the time. Why is that? I think it’s simply a matter of not caring what other people think. So much of our younger years are spent worrying about what other people, friends, colleagues, neighbors think about us. While the thoughts of other people still represents a consideration from time to time, if they think I look like a fool dancing around with a two-year-old, so be it. I know I do and don’t care.
A Little Ice Cream Never Killed Anyone
If a toddler wants ice cream for dinner, that kind of request 20 years ago would have provoked so much pushing and pulling between the child and this parent. Today? Will a cup of rainbow sherbet at 6:30 p.m. as a pit stop while driving home from errands create a spoiled little monster? Of course not. Is it productive explaining to the 2 year old that “It’s not time for ice cream now, honey. You need your proteins, vitamins and minerals now.” Yeah, right.
Talking Softly and Explaining Things Works
When I was 30, I knew it all and didn’t hesitate to make sure everyone around me was aware of that fact, even little kids. And, I let them know loudly and without filters. Today, after 20 years of parenting and living, I realize that quiet words and empathy directed toward a crying 2 year old work a whole lot better. They actually listen and it saves a lot of internal angst for me to be calm amidst a storm of tears. And, most importantly perhaps, it will make things easier the next time there’s a breakdown; and the next time and the next time.
I See the Finish Line
My father died this year and I see my own finish line. At 30, I didn’t think about dying or about the impact my no longer being on earth would have on my children. I think about it now. I care about it now. Thinking about how you’d like to be remembered, particularly by the people you love and who love you, can’t help but make life easier to deal with and to accept. Do I want this little person to remember a sweat-filled, nervous, hollering maniac? Don’t think so. Do I want her to remember a calm, accepting, willing participant in the things that matter to a 2 year old? When I accept that concept, everything is easier.
Every day, I admittedly struggle with my own philosophy because raising a child at any age - your own and the child's - is difficult, but thinking about my six reasons above helps. So, to my young friends out there raising kids. Yes, it's serious, but remember, it's not that serious.
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