It was a typical afternoon and I was stumbling in the door to two very happy and wiggly little dogs, having just picked up my 7-year-old from school, when I received a random text from my 20-year-old son who just recently moved to Seattle.
Son (in text): “Mom, it was soooo disgusting. Seriously. It was gross. It took me all day to clean it. I even had to wash the walls.” (talking about his new place)
Me: What? He washed walls?? An instant smile and the sweet, sweet feeling of vindication!
Yes! In one shining instant all of the years of my nagging about crumbs on the counters, picking items off the floors, rinsing out the sink and occasional outburst of “I am not a maid” came full circle. Moments like this have been one of the unexpected joys of raising kiddos who are 13 years apart.
People are always surprised to hear about my kids’ age difference, and yet, I am equally surprised to have met so many others walking in my shoes. When kiddos are so far apart you straddle two parenting worlds. Sometimes, it gets a little lonely rushing from daycare pickup to high school drama rehearsals.
When my kids were a bit younger I used to joke that toddlers and teenagers actually go together well — they both throw fits, they both need constant supervision, and they are both seeking ways to be independent. I still stand behind that statement, and I have also learned to appreciate the unique gift that this age gap provides.
Like a glimpse into the future, with my oldest I get to see the fruits of my labors, the outcomes to all of the worrying, tears, moments of hesitation and acts of bewilderment or frustration at points where I felt like I was just guessing the right path to take. Now, these give me hope and motivation with my youngest and release me from some small part of parenting-littles-angst.
Texts like the one I received remind me that phases do come and go, that kiddos do internalize the lessons that you teach, and that when they say they “hate you” they don’t really mean it. Snuggles and kisses and bedtime stories become a little bit sweeter knowing the power that they truly hold. The tumbles and spills and “sorry Mom”s are a little easier to weather knowing that it all pays off in the end.
Now when in doubt, I just stop, take a breath, and think of my son’s clean walls.