Living with older kids has a lot of benefits. Sure, for a peaceful life it is necessary to tiptoe around the easily offended feelings of volatile teenagers. A flippant remark taken the wrong way can result in a scathing comeback followed by that all too familiar, foot stomping exit from the room as the Worst Parent Ever is put firmly in their place and left to mull their inadequacies alone. Most of the time though, on a day to day basis, I have found that my life is easier.
For a start, they can travel unaccompanied. After many years of running the household with military precision to ensure that each of my three kids was fed, delivered to wherever they needed to be on time with whatever they needed for that activity, and then picked up and brought home again as required, it is a relief to be able to simply keep track of who needs to be where and when without having to leave the house. Sometimes I will still be asked to do a drop off, or to pick up one child or another, but most outings are organised by the kids themselves, including transport.
Play dates are a thing of the past. We still get plenty of friends calling round, and sometimes they stay for a meal or to sleepover, but again, it is organised without any need for my intervention. All I need to do is to make sure that we have enough pizza in the freezer and leave the TV room free for their chosen entertainment.
On a day to day basis we can now eat when it suits the adults on most nights as the myriad of late afternoon and early evening activities have been abandoned. If the kids have something organised then they can sort out their own food. Dinner time can be a respectable 7pm or later and caters for whoever happens to be home. Afterwards I can generally sit down to relax knowing that those who are out will make their own way back. I do not even need to be here when they return from school as they carry their own keys, although I do like to sit down with them at this time for a cup of tea and a catch up when I can.
I miss spending time with my kids. They retreat to their bedrooms at every opportunity, but I remember doing the same thing at their age so do not take it personally. It is rare to find an activity that all three will wish to join in with, but this does give me the opportunity to enjoy their company individually. It is easy to leave those who do not wish to take part at home alone; they have all outgrown the need for babysitters.
I still do a lot for my kids, but it is because I choose to do so, not because they are incapable. I am very aware that they need to learn how to take care of themselves as they will be preparing to live away from home all too soon. I choose my battles carefully; a messy bedroom may irritate me, but it is more important that they know how to prepare a meal for themselves.
On Day 3 of my countdown to Christmas I am therefore thinking positively about my children and how much I am enjoying watching them metamorphise from the little people I have nurtured to the grown ups they will become. It can be hard at times to adjust to no longer being at the centre of their lives, but the freedom that this has granted me can be enjoyed.
I do miss the impetuous hugs, the smiles and the little hand in mine when reassurance is required, but I am glad to have moved beyond the nappies, the tantrums and the never ending demands of the very young.
Knowing when to be there for teenagers may be a challenge, but at least for now I am still a part of their lives, even if less significant than I once was.