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Sometimes parenting teens and toddlers at the same time can be seriously overwhelming. One moment you’re talking about adult goals, college prep, and the quadratic equation only to quickly switch gears to potty training, pulling things out of the toilet, and discussing the merits of Dr. Seuss.
It’s not easy to go from dating, purity, and the latest internet trend to playing blocks on the floor and reminding them there’s no gold up their nostrils so they can stop exploratory digging. Yes, parenting teens and toddlers at the same time can feel like you’re juggling flaming swords, but it doesn’t have to.
So what’s a mom to do?
1. Enjoy Each Season
I think the hardest thing for me these days has been enjoying each season. I’m expecting a baby, due right around the time our oldest turns 18. Can you even imagine?
We certainly never pictured life this way, nor did we plan on it turning out this way. But it’s truly awesome. Sometimes, though, I get so caught up in one part of parenting that I forget to enjoy the others.
For instance, we just wrapped up the homeschool year and I was caught up in a haze of grading, planning for next year, making sure we had met all of our requirements, and everything else I have to do in my role of homeschool teacher.
During this last, crazy week I didn’t get down on the floor and play blocks or peek-a-boo nearly as often as I should have. I only read a couple of books, instead of our normal dozens. I forgot to enjoy the toddler season because I was knee deep in tween and teen work.
So tip number one in parenting teens and toddlers at the same time is to take the time to enjoy each and every age, each and every day. This will look different for each of us, but what it means for me is being intentional about carving out time for each age group.
When the older kids are studying independently, I’m learning to let some of my “to do” list wait so that I can sit down in a pile of blocks and dinosaurs and play with my little ones. When my little ones are napping, I’m learning to share that quiet time with my teens over a cup of tea and just chat, or maybe play a strategy based board game we couldn’t enjoy with the littles awake.
2. Give Grace
Yes, your children need you to give them grace. In that same manner, you need to give yourself grace and your marriage needs to be soaked in it.
One thing I’ve learned about parenting young adults is that grace is an essential part of the process. One thing I’ve learned about parenting little humans still in diapers is that grace is an essential part of the process, too. Also, I’ve learned that marriage requires copious amounts of it.
Pretty much life, in general, requires us to give grace. And thank the Lord, we’re not giving it from our own stores, but from His! And the mom who is parenting teens and toddlers at the same time needs to be a continually flowing fountain of grace.
In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul reminds us clearly that God’s grace is sufficient for us, and that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. I’m not sure about you, but I give God daily opportunities for His power to be made perfect in my life.
Giving grace is so important. And don’t forget to extend it to yourself as you extend it to those around you.
3. Be Thankful
This sounds so basic, doesn’t it? Yet it’s kind of hard sometimes! However, it’s the natural consequence of the previous step of giving grace. 2 Corinthians 4:15 tells us that when grace extends and reaches more people, thanksgiving increases. What a beautiful response to grace, isn’t it?
And we can create it in our own homes.
When I’m cleaning up an explosive poopy diaper and turn around to find a heaping mess of exploding, hormonal teenage emotions it’s hard to remain thankful. For real, hard. But you know what? It’s also entirely possible.
Mamas, one of the most important things we can do for our husbands, children, and ourselves is live from a place of gratitude. If God never did another thing for me, beyond what He already has, I would never run out of reasons to praise Him. And as if all of those blessings weren’t enough, He gives new mercies each and every day.
When life gets so ridiculous that you’re either going to laugh or cry, choose laughter. When you’re parenting teens and toddlers at the same time, those opportunities come frequently.
Not all that long ago, I walked into our family room that I readied for company a scant half hour earlier. And I found my daughter sitting in a pile of baby powder, happily playing with her toys in the “snow” and singing “Let It Go.” Can I tell you, transparently, that everything in me resisted letting it go?
As I felt the ire building inside of me, a part of me also recognized that in 20 years this moment would still be one we talked about with laughter. So I reasoned, why not start laughing about it right now?
My teens looked at me like I was crazy…but ultimately they joined in with me, so we all got to have fun together. I think that is perhaps one of my favorite parts of that moment.
I’ve learned a lot throughout their childhood about learning to laugh more, and we are all enjoying those lessons. I wish someone would have told me years ago that it’s all a little easier to handle with laughter, that merry heart that is like a medicine.
As the popular saying goes: Don’t sweat the small stuff — and it’s all small stuff.
5. Take Some Time For Yourself
When I was a new mom, I didn’t realize how much self-care matters. I felt like I was selfish if I took time for myself. I still struggle with it. But mama, take some time for yourself. Even Jesus withdrew from the crowds to pray. We need to do that, too.
I’ve learned to grab that time in the moments and to let those sweet seconds revive me. I try to do it when my kids won’t really even notice that I’m not there, although that’s not always possible.
Sometimes hubby will see my exhaustion and send me for a nap or my overwhelm and send me out for a quiet meal. The kids notice that I’m not there, but they also enjoy that time with their dad. I take that time at home when I can’t run out and take it, which has been most of my years as a mom.
It can be as simple as a cup of coffee while reading a chapter out of the Bible, or as decadent as a bubble bath during nap time.
When you are parenting teens and toddlers at the same time, you don’t always get that time after the kids go to bed to regroup, or before they wake up. In our home, the little ones wake with the sun and the older ones far outlast it, which means I’ve had to get creative. But it happens. Sweet mama, make sure it happens.
And one more thing about time…it’s going to pass no matter what you do with it. So slow down and savor it, breathe, and just enjoy your kids. They won’t be at home forever, and soon enough you’ll be longing for them to visit.
6. Pray Continually
One of the most succinct verses in the Bible is 2 Thessalonians 5:17 with its admonition to pray continually. In that same passage, we are also reminded to give thanks at all times and rejoice always. This is a lifestyle, not an occasional moment type of thing.
I feel like I’ve saved the best for last here, honestly. Let your entire life be a prayer. Sometimes the prayer comes out in hidden tears shed in the shower as your heart breaks over teenaged rebellion and you second guess every choice you’ve ever made.
Other times the prayer bubbles out on the laughter that comes from desperation as you fish a matchbox car and dinosaur out of the toilet. Sometimes it flows out with gratitude for the health and laughter and provision you see at the dinner table as you all sit down together.
However your prayers are expressed, Scripture only directs that they be continual. And let’s face it, when you’re parenting teens and toddlers at the same time life almost ensures that you’ll be praying a lot! And you have the assurance that it will make a difference, or God wouldn’t have directed you to in Scripture.
Parenting Teens and Toddlers at the Same Time is a Gift
When you’re a new mom, you don’t realize that those sleepless nights holding your baby close to offer comfort while they are teething will be some of your sweetest memories.
It’s not always easy to see that those hard conversations with your teen that are often followed by tears and prayers when you can’t sleep for worry are the moments that build your relationship with them into something even stronger.
Sometimes you see all you don’t do for them, instead of recognizing what an amazing mom you already are.
But therein lies the gift of parenting teens and toddlers at the same time. You know how fleeting the moments are, so you can be more intentional about stopping to savor them. Experience has taught you to laugh instead of cry, to hug instead of lecture, to wait instead of rush. Every day I thank God for those lessons and ask Him to remind me of them when I forget.
Last night as I paced the floor with my teething toddler cradled over my pregnant belly, I smiled. Yes, I was exhausted. I knew I’d be tired today, no doubt.
But I smiled because one day, very soon, he will be too big to hold like this and he will not come to me for comfort any more. This morning as I helped a teen with a wardrobe malfunction over my exhausted yawns, I thanked God that they trusted me enough to come to me. Straddling generations isn’t always easy, but it’s a gift.
And now? I’m putting away the computer because it’s time to play dress up before family game night. Ten years ago, none of those things would have been cherished by me; instead, I’d have taken them for granted. I’m so thankful that I can enjoy it today. Savor today, my friend; tomorrow it will be but a memory.
Dear, sweet mama that is parenting teens and toddlers at the same time: take your experience and let it enrich each day!