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Do you secretly prefer teenagers over babies? (Or vice versa?)

MOM,TEEN,HIKING
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If you're ready for your baby to grow up already, or wish that your teenager would transform into a toddler, it's okay.

Not-so-secretly, I’ve always feared that I’m not cut out for this whole motherhood gig. I love my children, but I’ve never quite gotten the hang of loving the whole kit and caboodle of mothering the way most of the other moms I know do.

Babies, for instance. Babies are miraculous, precious, adorable, infinitely heart-melting, and yet what I love the most about my friends’ babies is that I don’t have to take them home. Infants were hard for me, as far as the stages of motherhood go. Post-partum depression didn’t help, but even on those rare occasions when I escaped PPD, I failed to relish long hours of rocking, bathing, burping, and forcing tiny erratic appendages into absurdly buttoned-and-smocked onesies.

9-18 month olds, though, I adore. As soon as they can walk, but before they graduate to “toddler” was the time when I felt the way about my kids that my friends felt about their infants. It took a while, but I got used to the idea that maybe I just liked older babies a little better than freshly-baked ones. Because no matter what, all my mom friends and I were united on this one, vital front: we dreaded the teenage years.

Lo and behold, years passed in an instant and I now have a soon-to-be-13-year-old … and between the gazillion things that drive me crazy, I keep coming up against this one, unexpected truth: I love this new phase of motherhood.

I’ve been stressing about whether or not I need to turn in my “mom cred” badge until I clicked over to Scary Mommy one day and read this confession by a mom who has also found herself loving motherhood more the older her children get:

The older my kids get, the more I enjoy motherhood. With each new stage, I felt relief to be progressing and moving on from the last. I was thrilled to prepare the final bottle. I never once wished for the need to rock a baby to sleep one more time. I didn’t shed a tear at kindergarten registrations. I was giddy when my kids learned to dress themselves, to feed themselves, to shower themselves. When I realized I had given my last bath, I felt nothing but grateful. I rejoice that my kids are now old enough and responsible enough to walk to school on their own, to make their own sandwiches, to do most of their homework without me going over it question-by-question.

Seriously, never has someone else spoken words directly from my soul like that. I’ve got 2.5 kids who can shower on their own, and I cannot wait for the day when that number is 5.0. Ditto with the homework, the lunches, the dressing, the everyday caretaking that, to be perfectly honest, I find taxingly tedious to check off for myself. Multiplied by 5? Fuggettaboutit.

Here’s what I love about having older kids: we can go to the ninja gym, or even the playground down the street, and instead of hovering under them in case they fall, I try to keep up with them as we race across monkey bars or up and down climbing walls. When it’s time for homework, their math is hopelessly beyond me — I couldn’t learn it through YouTube if I tried (spoiler alert: I don’t try). But English? In English, they’re reading my favorite books and I get to sit down and help them figure out the climax and themes. I get to help them figure out what’s important and what’s not — and sometimes, they show me a new perspective and I realize I was missing a crucial element all along. When we’re done with homework, they teach me the latest dance moves (hello, in my feelings) and laugh at my hopelessly uncoordinated dance moves.

Not all my friends feel this way. Some of them find the teenage years to be the hardest because they loved those long, slow years of caretaking and nurturing. Teenagers talk fast, move fast, and change fast. I find it exhilarating, but some moms find it jarring.

And that’s okay. None of us are bad moms, or even sub-par moms … the fact that I wonder if I’m not cut out to be a mom because my reactions aren’t the way I think they should be is basically proof enough that I am, in fact, cut out to be a mom. Any mom who cares about her kids, is involved in their lives, and does the hard stuff even when she doesn’t want to (lookin’ at you, potty training) is totally crushing the whole motherhood thing.

It’s normal for moms to be different when it comes to their kids, because we’re different people, period. You’re not a freak if you don’t adore infants or really can’t handle sassypants teenagers, because the truth is we all hang in their and love our kids no matter how much we like their particular stage in life. That’s what makes us moms — great moms.

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