The haze of the baby and toddler years is behind me. As much as I sometimes miss a baby to nuzzle, I’m absolutely thrilled to have moved on to the next phase of parenthood. While the majority of my close friends are in this same stage with me (and some are even farther in since they didn’t have that third, bonus child like I did), I do have some friends and family members still trudging through the exhausting hell that is “parenting with littles”. Whenever I spend some time with these families I can’t help but make a mental list of why parenting older kids is simply wonderful.

Sleep. Blissful, uninterrupted sleep has again arrived in my home.  Sure, my youngest still crawls into my bed a couple of times a week because of a nightmare but I barely alert to her presence.  Otherwise, most nights, I send my kids to their rooms around 9 pm (8ish for the youngest) and I don’t hear from them until the morning. Weekend mornings the youngest may pop in around 7:00 to let me know she is awake but she’ll then settle in front of the TV, her iPad, or some activity on her own. Once one of her older siblings awakes she’ll convince her to feed her and not one of them comes looking for my husband or I until at least 8:30-9 (and that’s only to complain that there isn’t anything to eat for breakfast). My middle daughter will sleep until noon if I let her.

Hygiene and Personal Care. My two oldest girls shower independently only needing a, “Hmm…when was the last time you showered?” comment to get moving. My youngest still needs me to supervise a bath but I’m SO CLOSE to her showering as well.  All three can toilet independently, wash their hands and faces on their own, blow and wipe their own noses, and reach tissues, napkins, and paper towels whenever necessary. They can all brush their teeth and the two oldest can manage their hair and nails on their own. All can get dressed and get shoes and coats on without my help. This all means that I can yell “everyone please get ready to go” and most everyone gets mostly ready to go on their own!! It’s truly amazing.

Mobility. My family can finally do fun and different types of activities without as much worry. We can travel longer distances without as much complaining. We can stay in a hotel room without asking for a crib or bringing along a pack-n-play. We are no longer dependent upon easy access to changing areas, strollers, and high chairs. I carry only a large purse instead of a bulky, heavy diaper bag and my older girls often carry their own cinch bag with their essential items. We can eat at practically any restaurant we find since we can usually find at least something each child will eat. We have no nap schedules, no feeding schedules, and no worries that a child can’t last a few more minutes before we find food. We can, quite literally announce, at any time of the day, “want to go for a ride?” and get into the car and go anywhere we want within five minutes of the initial announcement.

Independence. One evening I attended an event at one of those horrible fun indoor trampoline parks. I found a seat in the parent area with my friends, reminded each of my girls to be safe and to watch out for each other, and I sat and chatted with other adults. Every twenty minutes or so I wandered around the play areas and put my eyes on my children. I took some pictures and I cheered them on. Then I sat back down. Once, the youngest came looking for me because someone had bumped into her. I comforted her and then I walked her back to the play area once she felt better. After a few minutes I motioned that I was returning to my seat and she gave me a thumbs up. That experience, exhausted moms of toddlers and babies, is the light you need to look for at the end of your tunnel.  It’s coming. I promise.

Freedom. I saved the best for last. My oldest child is old enough (and responsible enough) to stay home alone. She can even stay home alone and provide basic care for her younger siblings. Let that sink in for a minute.  Oh, the possibilities. I can now grocery shop, alone. I can get in a doctor or hair appointment, alone. I can go to the gym!! I can run an errand that would take only 10 minutes in 10 minutes! No more getting everyone into coats and shoes, buckling them into the car, getting them out of the car, navigating the parking lot and the store to obtain the one needed item, standing in line while managing three bored/tired/antsy children, navigating the parking lot again (this time with an extra bag), buckling them back into the car, and then getting them back into the house. I just yell, “I’ll be right back!” and I go. My husband and I can go out to dinner without finding a sitter! We can decide, within a few minutes notice, to feed the kids and then escape for dinner out on our own (with our phones on the table so we can see a text or phone call come in from our daughter). I’ve never left town with my children home alone, I’m never out late into the evening, and we do not stay out for more than a couple of hours at a time but this little bit of freedom is delightful.

Parenting older children is not without it’s challenges, of course. The saying, “big kids, big problems” is certainly true and my active kids are very busy with sports, lessons, and school. Parenting a teenager is not easy and I know some of the hardest parenting hurdles I may face are still ahead of me.  However, life has definitely become a bit more fun and relaxed and I have to say my aching back and permanently exhausted brain is thankful.

Let’s Go Mets. 😉 Photo property of S. Orris