on parenting older children

I’m torn.

When my firstborn started school five years ago, I stopped sharing his photos. It’s been one of the best parenting decisions I’ve made because it set very strict boundaries for me as a creative in a social media world.

Yes, there have been times when I’ve wanted to post his photos and discuss his achievements but I come back to my self-imposed boundaries and remind myself – it’s not about me; it’s his story and definitely not mine to share.

But now, as I mother a newborn, a toddler, a six-year-old and an almost tween, I’m itching to discuss my experience with older children.

Because parenting a newborn is wildly different to parenting a tween. And yet here I am, doing both. Simultaneously breastfeeding while discussing everything that school brings to the surface – sports ability, friendship circles, nasty words, teacher expectations, have and have-nots, another lost school jumper…

And then, of course, the idea of high school. Which is only two years away.

I can’t go there.

Lately I’ve been drawn to facebook articles on tweens and teens. I’m more likely to peruse stories about raising resilient teenagers than I am about toddler antics. I’m petrified of the effects of social media on my older children and equally buoyed by just how marvellous the millennials seem to be (no doubt Gen Zed* will follow suit). But…

As a mother, I’m not ready. I don’t feel prepared for what’s ahead. It’s daunting.

These words could just as easily be from a woman pregnant with her first child, fearful of the unknown. And yet here I am, a mother of four, equally unsure of what will be required from me as I guide these kids through the maze of older childhood.

Which is exactly where the story is.

I can’t continue to write here and just talk about babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers. It wouldn’t be honest and it definitely wouldn’t be the whole story. But I can’t and I won’t be breaking my self-imposed boundaries. So how will this story play out?

I’m more than able and willing to discuss my fears and flaws (and brighter moments) as I mother the “big kids”. And what better way to begin than here…where I’m flanked by readers who have been there and those that can come along for the emotional ride.

I’m sure there will be times when I choose not to share part of the story but for the most part it will be about me – the things I’m learning, the challenges I’m having and the advice I’ve been given.

Where’s the Buddhism for Mothers of Older Children?

*I had to google what the next generation will be called. Gen Zed’s have births starting in 1996 and ending in 2010. And after 2010? Hello Generation Alpha!

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Showing 14 comments
  • Kim

    I’m right there with you – my first is nearly 10 and my fourth is 12 weeks. Yesterday, we went to look at a high school! It’s daunting still doing all the baby stuff, while facing the challenges of an almost tween. It was one of my biggest concerns about having a fourth baby. I trying to make time for just her – a shopping trip, exhibition, walk, cooking together – although of course the sleepy baby is always with us too. So far it’s been enough… Xx

    • Belinda

      All I can say is, wait until your kids leave for university!!! Enjoy EVERY moment now you have with them, because believe me, that time comes quicker than you will know. I’m dropping my youngest off next Saturday at Uni, and cliche as it sounds, it doesn’t seem like 18 years ago I was in the same position as you!!! I don’t want to turn the clock back, because it’s nice that both of mine have grown up, and perhaps myself and my Husband, can give ourselves a pat on the back and feel proud of a very difficult job that we’ve done!!! So, like I said, enjoy every precious moment!!!

  • Deb Brady

    Oh I feel your pain. My children are now in their early 20’s (my youngest just turned 20 and she is still unsettled somewhat) I think that there is a lack of information and guidance for navigating the teens and indeed beyond. So much worry and angst – amid laying awake at night waiting for a recently turned 18 year to arrive home safe & sound I would often long for the nights of pacing with a sleepless baby. I have no doubt though that you will meet this next phase of motherhood with the same calmness, courage and love you have so far.

  • Ariana

    Yes! Experiencing the very same issues here as well. I’m solidly a Generation X-er, so in an older category, but still weathering the same stormy teenager-bound seas. We have 5 kids ranging in age from 11 (this Friday!) down to 15 months. Four of the kids are divided amongst 3 schools, from inner city public middle schools of nearly 700 students to gentle Waldorf early childhood. What is often the case for us, and it might be for you too, is that the majority of our peer group is not necessarily set up the same way as our own families — that is to say, we don’t belong just to the older kid gang, or the babies+toddler gang…perhaps it is the perception of the seasoned mom or dad, but certainly straddling all of these age groups is complex, to say the least. I’m always so interested to hear the stories and experiences of parents raising teenagers.. Looking forward to reading about your experiences as you navigate through as well.

  • Lucinda

    Hi Jodi, I can totally relate to this! I’m a couple of years behind you and have three girls. I think one of my bigger revelations of motherhood is that I will always be a “new mum” with my eldest (unfortunately for her! 😉 ) I used to look at mums with babies on their hips when I was pregnant the first time around and think “I’ll know what I’m doing when I have a baby that big,” only to realise I totally didn’t! Then I’d look at mothers of school children and think, “Wow, when I am a school mum I’ll be all over this,” only to realise I’m absolutely not! Every new age is a first, a new learning curve, with number one. I’m terrified of the tween/teen years which are rapidly approaching – mainly due to technology (oh the suffering of all of us who grew up on the cusp of this and can remember a life both with and completely WITHOUT technology and social media!), but also because of my own memories of turning away from my parents in so many ways during that folding in of the teenage years. Ahhh! All I can say is, I admire your choices and believe you can write about your own experience of this time without revealing too much. Good luck sister.

  • Pauline

    Hi Jodi. I am also a mother of 4, with the eldest just about to turn 11. I also work in the field of youth wellbeing research – not that that means I have the answers to the many challenges ahead, by any means. However I do often come across great resources that I feel arm me with some sound information. One of the best reads on adolescent development is Dan Siegel’s book Brainstorm: The Power and the Purpose of the Teenage Brain. He’s also the author of The Wholebrain Child, which would have to be one of my most recommended and accessible parenting books ever (and I generally don’t recommend parenting books!). Here he is talking about adolescence:

  • Ayesha

    Oooh – I have two Gen Alphas! I like that 🙂

  • Nicola

    I really enjoyed this post and I can’t wait to read your thoughts on tweens and teens. I’m not yet a mother, but already I’m trying to prepare myself for those stages and how to navigate them in this wild modern world.

  • Ally

    Really looking forward to reading your thoughts on tweens/teens. We’ve got a daughter going into yr 3 next year, although because our small school has 3 grades in one class (at one stage we had 7yr olds with 10yr olds) some of the topics that come home I have so not been ready for. Like you, we’ve also got one starting Kindy next year (which I feel very ready for) and an 18mth old and #4 due by December. Currently in the head space of ‘could we have made our lives any crazier’!!

  • Eliza

    I really look forward to hearing more. I think I am torn right along with you! I think many mothers make the same decision to go “quiet” on their older children, meaning I feel rather unprepared with how to deal with the issues which are and soon to be coming up. (I’ve already had discussions about why Miss 9 can’t wear midrift tops, and I don’t know how to deal with even that, let alone larger questions I know are in the post ready for delivery).

    I do still love the smaller child posts, mostly from a nostalgic point of view.

  • Ashley

    I’m there with you-I have an 10-1/2-year-old, a 7-1/2-year-old, and a 10-month old. I feel much more confident about parenting the baby than I do the older ones!

    I’d love to hear more about your experience, but at the same time I really admire your decision to take your children off your blog/social media as they get older-I’m sure that is something they will appreciate!

  • Cynthia

    Having raised two sons and now enjoying the fruit of grandchildren, please allow me to say, All will be well. I can tell from the comments that all of your readers Jodi are good mothers like yourself. The teen years will be weathered just like any other stage…with an abundance of love and patience. If you embrace the fact that the teen’s work is to separate from you and the family to forge his own identity, you will find the path less encumbered. Continue to provide plenty of food and welcome his friends to your home and you will be on top of what’s going on. One of my sons worked post-college in a program for at-risk youth and he asked me why he had not rebelled. I reminded him that it was because we supported virtually everything he wanted to pursue! Yes, we were fortunate to have completed our child-rearing pre-social media madness, but I know you younger mothers will find the middle path and your teens will be smart, savvy, AND safe.

  • victoria

    I am with you, being a mother to a 10 year old, a 5.5 year old and a almost 3 year old and right now I have no idea how to parent a 10 year, its so hard, I want to let her be free but then I worry way too much, I want the best for her but is it really the best for her??
    I took her off my social media occasionally posting a photo or two because she’s also my child that made me the mother.

  • iris

    yes please! it would be so interesting to share our experiences about parenting older children. i have children with big age gaps and am thinking constantly about it, although i`m sure its doable. i try to see it as something positive and a chance for everybody involved to learn from each other.

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