Full disclosure: I've been married 16 years, I have three kids who are ages 10, 12, and 14, and there's a mole on my right inner thigh that's changed shape recently. That last confession has nothing to do with this column, but my lawyer says that every full disclosure has to include one status update on my body moles.
Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images
Maybe I shouldn't have picked a lawyer who graduated from DeVry.
I know what you're thinking: "Oh, but Kristi, you're too young and hot to have kids that old! Are you sure they're yours?" No, I'm not. But I'm too far along in the parenting game to ask for maternity tests now. The interesting thing about raising kids is that you never picture yourself with teenagers. You picture yourself with cute little babies and scrappy kindergartners, but imagining a future version of you standing shoulder to shoulder with a future version of your offspring is next to impossible. Now that this future is here for me, it's way more fun than I expected. Here's what no one told me about raising older kids.
#5. Your Kids Can Be a Substitute for Friends Now!
By the time your children have figured out how to do #2 on or around the toilet, there's an amazing chance you've already lost every real world friend you've ever had. Not because you're terrible or your kids are terrible or you insist on talking about your child's doodies, but because the energy and time it takes to maintain real world friendships are long gone. For some of us, this was true without even adding kids to the equation, which was weird because of the constant doody talk.
Betsie Van Der Meer/Taxi/Getty Images
Early along, my husband and I figured something out -- these baby humans will be older one day, and maybe they'll even be fun to hang out with. Why not train them to like the things we like so they'll do them with us now that we don't have any friends? It's like the Bible says, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it." Yes, the writer of this verse (God?) probably meant "Teach your kids to love God (me?) and they will always love God (me?)" but there's no reason you can't apply the same principle to making your kids take up your stupid hobbies with you.
For our family, that means my daughters watch musicals and do Pinterest crafts with me and my son plays music with his dad. Or the girls play Minecraft with dad and I sulk, because what's so great about digitized LEGOs? If I wanted to spend the rest of my life marveling at pretend worlds THAT LOOK TERRIBLE, I would have stuck with the Star Wars movies. The point is that raising a family takes forever, and you're going to need some shared interests to pass the time if you don't want to go bananas. Hey, if your thing is playing Barbies and Hot Wheels and intentionally losing Candyland after an hour of gameplay, then young children are probably a blast for you. If not, don't feel bad about your parenting skills. It's them, not you. And know your kids are going to be way more fun in a few years.
Obviously, if your hobbies include doing the molly drug at the dancing clubs, it's probably best to leave your kids out of the picture.
#4. Competitive Parents Are in for a Weird Surprise
Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Lightwavemedia/Getty Images
For anyone who has a competitive streak, there's a whole new dimension of strangeness that comes with raising older children. Before I get to it, let's set up the background. For some of us, having a normal adult conversation includes resisting the urge to top everything the other person says. If "Congratulations on your baby" and "I just had a baby 10 years ago, but mine came out of my mouth" come out in the same breath, guess what? You're a topper, and maybe a liar. It's OK. I top people too. Let's make a deal to work on it.
Douglas Freer/iStock/Getty Images
Now, as a new parent, this competitive streak is first going to manifest itself by you measuring up your own babies to other people's babies. Which infant is hitting their milestones first? Who's rolling over and who's lazy and worthless? How many times have you heard someone say "I didn't talk until I was 3, but I immediately spoke in complete sentences"? The only reason they know that is because their mama freaked out that she had a late talker, so she added some spicy compensation to the story. "I hungry" is technically a complete sentence, but that doesn't mean you should be proud of it. I know all about this because for some ungodly reason none of my kids started walking until they were exactly 15 months old, which is 72 in baby years. Have you ever seen a 15-month-old kid still crawling when his peers are already parkouring around them? "Take Me Down to Humiliation City" is the song I wrote about it.
Lola Takes Pictures/Flickr/Getty Images
That was a joke for my 14-year-old. Go do your homework, Mr. Harrison!
Once you get past the "How does my kid stack up to your kid on a literal level?" stage, something new happens. You might find yourself asking another question: "How does my kid stack up to me?" Get yourself psychologically prepared for the day you end up on the losing end of that equation. Moms, one day your little girl is going to be the teenage knockout who turns the heads you used to turn, and don't think for one second you won't notice the shift in energy. Dads, your little goofball who currently wears underwear with cartoon figures on the one side and unwashable stains on the other side might one day walk up on stage and blow a room away with his guitar. Or maybe your kid goes further in his or her athletic career than you ever could, or is funnier than you, or is more charming than you. The same competitive spirit that compels you to constantly compare yourself to your peers is going to rear itself when you figure out you've been out-personed by your children. Surprise! Raising older kids gives you a whole new way to be terrible!
altrendo images/Stockbyte/Getty Images
"If you'd just stop being pretty, we wouldn't have a problem, MaKenna!"
This also explains in-law tension and how some multigenerational holiday get-togethers often end in yelling or angry silence before the pumpkin pie even comes out. Go to an office party, and everyone can keep their jealousies at a reasonable level. Get with family, and one-upmanship is part of the evening's entertainment. When does that nastiness start? Certainly not when your kids are still making knock-knock jokes that end in questions about the universe.
#3. Welcome to the World of the Nameless
Design Pics/Design Pics/Getty Images
Maybe it's because I'm from the South or the 1880s, but when I was a kid, I was taught to speak to adults as "Miss or Mister First Name," if not "Ms. or Mr. Last Name." So my Sunday school teacher was Miss Lulubelle Jean or something along those lines, which was nice, because it's jarring to hear an 8-year-old address a senior citizen like they're two equals shooting the breeze. If you're a little kid using an old man's first name, he better be your stepdaddy.
Jeff and Dakota, best friends 4-ever.
When you're raising older kids, there's a nebulous world of communication between you and your kids' friends. They will not know what to call you, so you exist as a hovering nameless ghost-mom there for rides home and pizza payments. "Miss Kristi" sounded appropriate when my kids' friends were tiny, but not from 6-foot-tall man-boys with man-voices. On the other hand, "Mrs. Harrison" is my mother-in-law's mother-in-law's mother-in-law. The phrase is so formal that you'd probably have to go back to colonial times to find anyone who wanted the moniker.
John Lund/Blend Images/Getty Images
"My friends call me Kristi, but you can call me DJ Lipliner."
In the end, I'm guessing most of my kids' friends probably don't know my name at all, even after eating my food and staying in my house and imposing on my mental sanctity. Which is fine, because it's kind of Zen not having a name. Maybe I can convince them to call me Rumpelstiltskin one day.