Life with a toddler, tween and teen

???????????????????When I discovered I was pregnant with my third child in early 2010, you could say it was a “happy surprise.”

She wasn’t planned, per se; nor did I take any real steps to prevent getting pregnant. I was 30, and had wondered for some time whether it would happen for me again – though I wasn’t worried about it. If it were meant to be, it would be. I was more than grateful for the two healthy, beautiful children I had.

At the time of my pregnancy, my children were 8 and 12. And as they had grown older, I had slowly started to regain a bit of precious freedom, and became quite accustomed to these certain freedoms.

Also, the laborious days of diapers, bottles, and all things baby were a distant memory.

So I was nervous, but thrilled about the new little one, as were my son and daughter, who eagerly anticipated getting to know their new sibling.

I was lucky once again to have an easy, uncomplicated pregnancy, combined with two very well behaved, helpful and delightful children. My daughter would rub and kiss my growing belly and talk to her baby sister, whispering that she loved her.

I knew I was fortunate to have had such a generally positive experience with my older children so far, with very few serious blips.

But as my due date drew closer, I began to think more about what it would mean to have three children in three very different stages of life.

Now, nearly four years later, I am fully realizing the contrast between their individual life stages – they’re incredibly pronounced: a toddler (3), tween (12) and teen (almost 16). It’s beyond interesting, fun and challenging, switching from one particular parenting method to another, sometimes in rapid-fire succession.

The baby was incredibly demanding, as babies tend to be – breastfeeding, diaper changes, the complete dependence. It was a struggle to tend to all of her needs and continue to spend enough time with, and monitor, my two older children, who were both approaching adolescence and would soon require a completely different level of guidance. 

My last baby is now a feisty toddler, and still demands all of my attention in her waking hours. My tween is a lovely, super smart 12-year-old who is going on 17, and it’s absolutely terrifying.

She’s taller than I am now, and she’s stunning. The world is truly her oyster, and I know it’s my job to carefully guide her through what I’m sure are going to be some pretty turbulent years – puberty, first love, first heartbreak, friend betrayals, self esteem and body image issues, social media, bullying and the myriad other pressures teen girls face, while trying to make sure she’s well rounded, active and healthy, with a good sense of priorities and morals.

The thought is often overwhelming, but I’ve decided to take it all as it comes, one step at a time.

My toddler’s needs, in contrast, are so much simpler – she just wants to have fun, play, be fed, stimulated and comforted when needed. The more I think about it, the easier it seems.

I have just as much fun with my preteen daughter – at times – but the much-cited tension between mothers and daughters has begun to creep into our relationship.

I’m glad I’m aware of it early, and plan to be proactive about finding ways to steer us through what could definitely be a rocky road in our relationship.

As most parents are well aware, it is just not possible to avoid conflict with your kids. What gets me through is knowing we will always find our way back to each other, and our relationship – and love – will be stronger than ever.

Then there is my sweet boy, my first born, who is about to turn 16 and has already become a man in so many ways. I had him at the tender age of 18, and we’ve truly grown up together. He is a smart, kind, thoughtful young man who is going to go on to amazing things. 

He dreams of becoming a sports broadcaster, and has his ideal university course picked out, while I nearly collapse at the thought of my baby boy talking about moving five hours away to go to school (and after roughly costing this endeavour. FYI, parents, post-secondary comes a LOT more quickly than you think!)

But he is a teenage boy, which makes him inherently foreign to me. I couldn’t understand teen boys when I was a teen; I still don’t understand them now. 

There’s a lot of grunting by way of communicating, and not being keen to come along on family outings; there’s much prompting needed re: cleanliness and a major obsession with sports and sports trivia that I will never understand. 

But I’ve realized I don’t need to. I try to stake out some common ground wherever the opportunity presents itself; we share the same absurd sense of humour, I enjoy the rare outings he joins us for, the mini-convos we have from time to time, and I support him completely as he continues to discover himself, and his interests, goals and dreams. 

I try to instil in him the importance of working hard, being grateful, giving back and being considerate of others. So far, it’s turned out well.

I’m often amazed at my situation: three kids, in three totally separate stages of life, requiring three distinct approaches to parenting. It’s been a fascinating ride so far, though, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Photo: © Lebval