#2. It's You Against Them (Kinda)
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Here's your end game as a parent: to turn the little person you're raising into a self-sufficient, well-adjusted adult who is nice to be around. That's the prize, even if it takes 40 years to get there. And to make it to the finish line in one piece, you might want to think of parenting as "you against them." You, as in you and your husband/wife/partner/ex against your teens.
Put the gun away and let me explain myself. You, your kids, your extended family, and whoever else is gracious enough to help you raise your children are on the same team. Whether your child is a 3-year-old kid working on potty training or a 30-year-old heroin addict who has robbed you blind for half his life, you're all playing for Team Raise This Kid into a Healthy Adult, RTKIAHA for short. That's the deal you took on when you were too lazy to get your birth control prescription renewed and accidentally started making babies at age 22.
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"18 years, 18 years. I got you for 18 years."
But being on the same team does not make you and your kids equals in the co-monarchy that is your household. More importantly, if you're lucky enough to have a partner helping you raise your kids, that relationship should be protected like the Crown Jewels of England. You're going to need each other like meth needs Idaho, because assuming your partner is not an abusive, toxic individual, YOU DO NOT WANT TO RAISE TEENS ALONE.
Do you want a quick list why? Porn filters, puberty talks, and constant deodorant checks. You've got to stalk multiple social media profiles, including kids you've never met, because you want to make sure your children aren't hanging out with creeps. Keeping up with homework will be your second or third job. Each teen will have something they're into, which is great, except you've got to get them to that thing, which translates into hours in the car every week. Week after week. Year after year, until they can drive, which I assume is a whole new set of anxieties. I'll tell you when we get there in 15 years.
Don't get me wrong: Babies are exhausting. I wouldn't go back to the days of raising human puppies for anything less than a thousand dollars, and more on that in a minute. But babies can't get knocked up or addicted to huffing glue. They might slam a door or two if their little baby arms are really strong, but they're not emotionally manipulative or hormonal like teens and tweens. This is why, if you're lucky enough to have help, you need to work hard to keep that help happy. You and your spouse should be a citadel of unity against your kids when they're at their most emotionally exhausting.
#1. You Finally Get to Breathe Again
Reading the entry above, young parents might be tempted to drop off their toddlers at the nearest dumpster and hope for the best. But don't! Because I have some great news. Younger kids are exhausting because they are manic balls of energy who require constant attention, supervision, and companionship. And as a parent, you are the cook, the butt wiper, the bather, the chauffeur, the nurse, the play date arranger, the maid, the one who nags about all of these things, plus 10 more at the end of the day.
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Multiply this times three and you've pictured my 1999 through 2009.
One by one, those chores start to fall off your plate as your kids get older, hopefully starting with the butt wiping. Next duty off the list: bathing. One day your years of hovering over a bathtub trying to clean baby fat rolls, joking about how this toddler of yours is really the Marshmallow Man, are over. Another day, you wake up and realize your 10-year-old can cook her own meals and anyone else's if they ask nicely. Another day you realize play dates aren't a thing anymore. Most importantly, the days of swapping babysitting nights with friends so you can get a night out will one day be over. Your children can be their own babysitters.
Until you've been in the trenches tethered to your kids for years at a time, you have no idea how liberating it is when they're old enough to just be left alone for a while. You can go work out now. You can go out to dinner. You can go get groceries without a line of children following you like ducklings. MOVIES IN THE THEATER ARE AN OPTION FOR YOU. The only cinematic comparison I can think of is that moment in The Godfather when Michael Corleone takes his wife to Chuck E. Cheese's because he realizes no one needs him hovering over every little detail of the family business.
This is the parenting miracle that you can't fathom when there are still diapers in the house, and maybe the greatest miracle of all time, not including the miracle of giant animals that can play instruments and sing songs at Chuck E. Cheese's.
Kristi is a columnist and an editor for Cracked, and a mom who will be apologizing to her kids for writing about them. You can follow her on Twitter.