Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Top 5 Best/Worst Things About Having Kids in Your 20's

Top 5 Best Things About Having Kids In Your 20's

1. Sleep deprivation is no big deal. I hear lots of people say that they spent their 20's partying all night and getting up for work in the morning. So think of it like that, except that instead of partying, I've spent my 20's breastfeeding.

2. I have lots of energy, so I don't really need "help." I take my kids everywhere- to the store, the farmer's market, for long walks, and I'm not utterly dependent on a nanny to do it. In rural Illinois, this would be completely normal, but in L.A. I tend to get this look of utter amazement- "You're out taking three kids for a WALK? With no nanny?"- from people peering over their steering wheels, perplexed and annoyed at actually having to stop for pedestrians when the WALK sign is flashing. I also get this surprised look from certain moms at the park, who all ask tactfully if I have "help-" a subtle way of asking if I have a nanny, without exactly ruling out the possibility of "help" being a relative or a friend. It seems like everyone in L.A. has "help" of some kind-  the pediatrician even once obtusely suggested that I leave Owen at home when I go out to run errands (because he was peeing constantly and I was telling her how annoying it is to have to take him to the bathroom twice during one grocery shopping trip). I looked at her like she was suggesting I leave him on the moon... leave him home? Go out with only ONE kid, or maybe even by myself? Such a luxury exists? Not for me. But that's okay- help, schmelp. I'm young and stupid- I can do anything.

3. I am young and stupid. I am just stupid enough to enjoy motherhood without freaking out about every little possibility of danger in the world. I don't stay up nights worrying that my baby will choke to death on one of those little rocks that Owen is always collecting. I don't lose any sleep over the ingestion of certain non-food items (dirt, sand, etc.). I hardly even notice anymore when Stewart bashes his head or bleeds profusely from the knee (it just happens SO often). Part of that is because I've experienced such things enough to know that they are absolutely unpreventable- you can't guarantee your kid's safety absolutely, whether they are 13 or 3 months old. All you can do is your best. But part of it is my inexperience- I haven't had a lot of tragedy in my life yet so I don't sit around worrying about when it is going to strike. I'm just stupid enough to believe that none of it will happen to me- which, when it comes down to it, is the only way to truly be happy. Who wants to spend life worrying about what MIGHT happen?

4. I don't have to spend my forties chasing after a bunch of whiny, greasy toddlers. (Okay, that sounds bad, I'll admit. I love my kids, I swear- but GRRRRR). By the time I'm forty, I'll have a trio of teenaged boys, who, granted, will keep me up at night ill with worry about them being behind the wheel of a car, but will at least be able to dress themselves and eat without having their food cut up for them (I really hope). My worry may be greater, but at least the day-to-day physical strain of having little kids- chasing them, tickling them, lifting them, lugging their strollers and car seats around, bending to help them with their pants and shoes- all that will be a thing of the past. I will be able to rest my creaking knees and have a Diet Coke without anyone sticking their fingers in it- and quite frankly, that's how I'd prefer to spend my forties.

5. Adjusting to the kids is easier. Adjusting to life with kids has not been too rough for Kyle and I because we started our family so early into our marriage. We were only married for one year before I got pregnant with Owen, so our kids have kind of been woven into the routine of our marriage. This could be looked at as a negative if Kyle and I were one of those couples who have nothing in common but the kids, and were in danger of becoming strangers and divorcing once they move out, but I don't think that's the case with Kyle and I. We are such good friends and share so many of the same interests that I think starting our family early has been overwhelmingly positive for us. It has forced us to work together and really become a team for our kids, especially because our families live so far away and the only person we have to rely on is each other. I think that if we had been married for many years before having children, we would have gotten very comfortable with that groove and had more trouble adjusting to all the changes that children bring, and trust me when I say that adjusting to your first child is hard enough without any extra challenges.

Top 5 Worst Things About Having Kids in Your 20's

1. I've never really had the chance to travel. Of course that doesn't mean I never WILL travel- hopefully I'll still be healthy enough by the time the kids have moved out that Kyle and I can take a few trips. But we missed the chance to travel when we were young enough not to care so much about money. I think traveling in our 50's will be far more sobering because after putting three kids through college and trying to plan for retirement, we will see so many other necessary places for our money to go. Where does your money go in your early 20's? What important expenses do you have? You live in a crappy apartment, drive a crappy car, and practically live on your credit cards anyway, so why not throw in a couple of crazy trips to Europe? You can't afford it anyway, right? Hearing Marylou talk about all the great trips she and Steve took in the years before they had kids totally makes me jealous of those experiences because when I do have my own, they won't be nearly as fun and crazy- I'm never going to, say, get drunk and lost in Cabo San Lucas and spend the whole night trying to get back to my hotel and have a hilarious story to tell about it (CLARIFICATION: that's just an example, not a story Marylou told me or anything- I don't want to make her look bad :). I mean, there's nothing fun and crazy about being drunk and lost when you're a retiree- it's just SAD at that point.

2. I never really got to "party up" my 20's. Sure, I got wasted a couple of times at Mid-western college bars where the beers are a buck, the music is recorded, and the dance floors are sticky. But that pales in comparison to what a city like L.A. has to offer in terms of nightlife (at least I assume- I'll never get the chance to find out, because by the time my nights are free, I'll be far to old to make it past the velvet rope).

3. Kyle and I haven't had as much time with just the two of us. Above, I mentioned that having kids early has been overwhelmingly good for my marriage. However, there is still the downside that Kyle and I didn't get to spend a lot of time together before our kids were born, and I would've liked to have that time with him even if we never did travel or party. An evening of videogames and Twizzlers sounds good to me.

4. I am not very patient. I'm 27 years old, so I think, act and move quickly, and sometimes I have no patience for my kids when they can't keep up with me. Sometimes I am amazed at how quickly I am irritated by the kids when they act ineffectually, or slowly, or worst- not at all. I know I need to appreciate how much they don't know yet, how much of life is new and interesting to them and not always be rushing them along. I make it a point every day to remind myself to slow down and appreciate each day with these little guys and to just enjoy who they are, even when they are wasting my time by arguing, dawdling, shuffling, and engaging in pointless behaviors. But for me, it definitely has to be a conscious effort. I've noticed that patience comes more naturally to older mothers- they have acquired a certain grace with their years that allows them to react with more tenderness to behaviors that seem to do nothing but irk me. I definitely envy that, because I obviously want to give my kids as much tenderness as I can in these few short years where they actually want tenderness from me.

5. There aren't very many mothers my age. As a 27 year old mother of three, I am kind of against the grain of most L.A. mothers. People in this city seem to have children in their mid-30's or 40's, which means that by the time I'm 43, relaxing with my Diet Coke, finally ready to go to a movie without getting a sitter, most of my friends will have just started their families and I won't have anyone to hang out with. I will be all dressed up and ready to party like it's 1999 (literally), and my friends will be calling me for advice on getting a baby to sleep through the night, or getting a three-year-old potty trained. The worst part is, I won't remember a thing about these long days of motherhood- it will all be blur of sleep deprivation, sticky messes and sweet, gummy-worm smelling kisses. All I will be able to tell them is what all the older people are now telling me: Just enjoy it, because it goes SOOOOO fast...

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