Parenting Older Kids {A Series of Untidy Packages}

little gifts

I was recently intrigued by a conversation some friends had about the social-media hush from Moms with older kids.  We tossed some thoughts around – but the consensus we came to about our more mature Mom-friends went something like this:

Raising older kids is not a series of pretty little packages.

The baby years are tough in their own rite.  No new mother would claim that her existence is anything but taxing.  Very quickly it is learned that your life is lassoed by these tiny people, and you are ruled and reigned by them.  Yet, in most of these moments there are sweet and innocent themes.  After all, a toddler is a toddler and at the end of the day, you are still kissed with sticky hands pressing against your face.

But Moms of older kids are drowning in a different pond altogether.

One of my children recently remarked: Mom, sometimes I feel like you enjoy nagging me.   And though there was prompt addressing and forgiveness asked, nonetheless these are the types of statements kids with maturing understanding level.

It is sobering to sit beneath the razor-sharp mirrors of their growing discernment.


gumball stirrers

The Cute Factor

So where are the Moms of tweens and teens?  In a quick scan of Facebook statuses and blogs, it is easy to note that most updates of any sort come from the little-years camp.

We are just beginning to dip our toes into life with bigger kids.  But already, there is more at stake.  Our fear is greater.  Our concern for their future is greater.  The future always felt so far away, but suddenly it is looming on the horizon.  And sadly, there are already a handful of regrets trailing behind.  So, there is simply no time to waste.

But it is also not as cute in the bigger-kid years.

It is not cute having to install open DNS on a computer, so that pornography cannot destroy your children.

It is not cute to find a man old enough to be her grand-father, following your daughter on Pinterest.

It is not cute to note character concerns which will affect them down the road, and realizing your reign of influence is limited in its power to harness them.


ice cream bars

And yet, I wouldn’t trade these years for anything.  For as I have grown to see, as I raise them, they are raising me.

My sin used to be better buried beneath piles of paper drawings of “me with Mom”.   The affirmation was constant, and the trust unchallenged.

But, since they are developing consciences of their own, they are bringing to light what I would prefer not to see.

But isn’t that always the way with sin?  We only acknowledge it if we have to.  And bigger kids force our hand in the arena of sin and repentance.

Moms of Older Kids need a Different Kind of Faith

As I arrived at the airport a few days ago, I stood next to several couples who appeared to be jetting off on honeymoons. It was fun watching them- all body contact and whispers and smiles.  Newlyweds have made promises which they fully intend to keep, but the faith in the marriage they have begun is vastly different than the faith that will keep them married.

They just do not realize it yet.

cupcake straw

Likewise, the faith that Moms with tiny kids possess, is exactly what is needed.  But that faith is much different still than the faith it takes to not give up as big kids begin to flex the muscles in their minds and wills.

As my own children become older, I can anticipate the temptation to disappear.  Especially on days where every drop of emotional energy has been wrung out. But I come back to Satan in the desert.  Standing with Jesus, he knew the opportunity was great.  You can have all this, he motioned.  Because he is conniving, he knew the wide-open vulnerability of solitude.

Likewise, a solitary Mom is a desert.  She is lonely, discouraged, and maybe even hiding her fears and inadequacies by staying where no one can see her.

But part of continuing to help our kids get to the next step, is leaning on one another.

We might go a few inches under-ground when it comes to social media- and perhaps this is even wise- but we need to stay above ground in our willingness to reach out and ask: Can you pray for me?

There is a marked powerlessness in walking solo.

But there is great power in humbly relying on a village of other parents to help you raise your child.




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14 thoughts on “Parenting Older Kids {A Series of Untidy Packages}

  1. A lot of interesting thoughts. I actually kinda dread the tween years…I just know they are going to be hard. I guess life just doesn’t give us breaks :)

    Lately Cora has been questioning everything I tell her to do “why mom?” or has been grumbling under her breath. I thought of you. This is my first taste of bigger kid sin (although hardly as she is still so young) and bigger kid questioning. I am not used to someone who reasons why or why not things should be :) I kinda like Elinor’s simple view of life. (which is just happy or really mad) It’s hard for me to know, when is Cora being naughty and what is her just being a more mature and understanding person? I would be interested in your view or another older moms…what is ok for kids to ask and what is them being defiant? I don’t want to crush her but I also don’t want to enable her in bad behavior.
    grace recently posted…Where I thought I Would beMy Profile

    • Grace, Cora reminds me so much of Anna. Anna was and is, such a question-asker. But if she knows the “why”, she is very submissive. She just does not want to be told, without good reason. And her reasoning ability is sharp. God has wired her to be a critical thinker. And though it is sometimes defiance, often it is purely a thirst to know “why”, simply out of a need to have a good, solid answer.

  2. Thank you for sharing. I need to pray more for stronger faith as my children grow. It is easy to worry and become more fearful.

    • Jen, thanks for visiting. I have become more fearful in a different way, too. Not as much for the physical safety, though that is a constant concern. But for the eternal safety. We can be praying for each other! :)

  3. Great article! As a mother of 3 (20 year old daughter, 12 year old daughter and a 7 year old son) my husband and I have seen and gone through a lot. My oldest at 17 rebelled so harshly that we had to grant her request to move out, and in with her boyfriend’s family. Not what we wanted or knew was good for her. But when do you stop sacrificing the health and well being and growth of other siblings and your marriage? It has been almost 3 years and I am glad to say she is on the mend and way back to being a joy to our family. Faith, ultimate faith in our Great Good God was the biggest and maybe the only thing that kept us from drowning. That and staying locked in your Bible! I had note card and sticky note verses all over the house. I think I stopped crying maybe 6 months ago. Heart wrenching and indescribable pain. But through pain God teaches and grows. Her faith has grown again, she has come back to the roots that were planted so long ago. I am finding joy in her again, slowly. It has taught us things that we will look to alter as the other 2 grow. But that being said every child is different. What works with one doesn’t always work with another. Where some question and seek the opposite of what we desire for them, then next child will do things extremely or slightly different. I am glad for the challenges mainly for the love the He wraps us in even when we feel like we are failing miserably. Ultimately, moms, these are God’s children we just have to do our very best to love them like He would and raise them to seek Him. (But it is still hard.) :)

    • Oriana, wow. What a story with your daughter! So thankful she seems to be turning toward the truth. I cannot imagine how difficult those years are. I agree that being “locked” in the Bible is ultimate. Thank you for your reminder and encouragement!

  4. Thanks so much for this post. Three of my four children are grown and gone leaving us with a 17-year-old boy at home. My experience has been that moms are so caught up in comparing their children with other moms’ kids that they tend to hide the problems rather than depending on other moms to help them through the hard times. We all need to leave the pride behind, realize that we are nothing without God, and that He has given us the community of the church to encourage and equip each other.
    On the bright side…my three grown children are NOT perfect, but they are all adults of whom I can be proud (in a good and godly way!). There were storms along the way and there may be more coming but God has been faithful in the past and I trust that He will be in the future.

    • Barbara, thank you so much for chiming in. Wow, you are in a really different stage with all kids grown. I imagine empty-nesting has concerns of its own. So glad your young adults are bringing you joy!

  5. Our children are now 21 (married), 18, 16, and 14. I cried tears yesterday over issues with our 18 and 16 year olds! Nothing HUGE HUGE but heart issues that must be dealt with and no energy to do so. I begged God for wisdom. We feel a bit like we are flailing. Last night I had a hard conversation with our 16 yo. I had to tell him no to something he really wanted to do. I knew he was very disappointed but he was respectful and gracious in his response. I candidly told him “I want you to be happy. But I am not willing to sacrifice your reputation and character for brief happiness. Your dad and I have to answer to God for what we allow you to do and this is not something we are comfortable with.” There were tears-his and mine-and he may not completely understand my reasoning but someday I hope he will realize that we said no because we love him.

    I loved my little kid years but I have LOVED being a mom of teens too. It’s HARD every single day but so worth it, in our limited experience. I hate to hear people say they are “dreading” the teen years. They can be so much fun! I could write forever on this topic but I want to encourage you moms of littles to hang in there. Do what you KNOW is right. God WILL reward it!

    • Jen, thank you for this encouragement. I love hearing the counsel of Moms who have gone before. I am really enjoying my pre-teen, but in an entirely different way than I enjoy my toddler. It is more listening-intensive. Thank you for cheering us on!

  6. Thanks for this post, Maryanne! Something I’ve been thinking about lately. It made me think of this song by Keith and Kristyn Getty, which I’m sure you’ve heard before:
    Especially the last verse usually brings tears to my eyes. We are preparing them for a journey all their own! Daunting task, but we know God is faithful!

  7. Interesting thoughts! I dislike the attitude of “it only gets easier” because well, I don’t believe it. Each stage of mothering has its challenges and each stage has its perks. My perk right now with little ones is they are in bed and asleep by 8pm (mostly:), I can only imagine that you are entering a stage where the heavy and thought provoking conversations are just beginning at 8pm! I often think that social media appeals more to the younger moms simply in the way that it provides some adult interaction, a small escape out of the world of one-sided conversations, tantrums and potty training (for example). As my children are getting older and our conversations are maturing I find myself turning less and less to social media.

    • I agree, Lindsey. I think that it is entirely different, depending on the stage. But complex, no matter the stage! I am trying to be more media-wise myself. Hard to be the first generation to have to figure it out!

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