My situation is unique. True, every family is special, but I think the typical family in the US seems to consist of two kids, maybe three, spanning no more than 6 years apart from oldest to youngest. These aren’t real numbers, I’m just speaking from observation.
For me to have five children makes me strange right off the bat. But for the span between oldest and youngest to be 17 years, puts me pretty far off to the side of normal.
Something that occurs to me again and again: by the time most people have teenagers, they are done talking and thinking about babies and toddlers. There isn’t much interaction between the newer Mamas and the more experienced Mamas because they all seem to seek out parents at a similar stage of development.
And as much as the parents of older kids don’t feel the need to relive the younger years, I think perhaps the parents of younger kids don’t really want the more experienced ones around anyway. There is an idealism that might be necessary to new parents that older parents just cannot stomach anymore. The new parents in the 21st century are determined to forge a new path, and there are a lot of old paths that could use some serious detours. But the weathered edge of cynicism of experienced parents might tarnish the vision the new parents strive towards.
So what do you do when you’re new and experienced? As a Mama who could currently join a parenting group for a child at just about every stage, I feel like a fly on the wall who gets to listen in on everything. And I often don’t know what to say to people. When they see me with only the baby, they’ll say, “Just wait until they’re teenagers, then you’ll be in for it!”
Why do we try to scare new parents with horrible scenarios of the future? No wonder they don’t want to listen to any of the things we could tell them that might help. Or if folks see me with one of the older ones, they’ll say, “At least you’re done with all the diapers and terrible twos!” Why would we feel relief to be done with a time of simple joy and unlimited promise?
And so I enjoy the company of other parents, being the comrade of whichever stage parent I happen to be hanging out with at the time, keeping mostly silent except to talk shop about the age of child currently at hand. I feel lucky to be running the entire gauntlet of ages at present, occasionally looking up from my juggling act to see the big picture – seven individual paths crisscrossing within the same household, running vaguely parallel but each following its own unique rhythm, contributing its own distinct sound to the harmony (at times discordant!) of our life together.