When I hear the mother of a much younger child — like a baby or toddler — complain about their stress and fatigue, I can't help but smile.
"Sister," I think to myself, "You ain't seen nothin' yet."
Not that I've forgotten those early days. I remember them all right. I remember checking to make sure my sleeping daughter was breathing. I remember tormenting myself over her first eye infection. I remember crying through a 2:00 a.m. feeding, a sloppy emotional bag of exhaustion and postpartum.
"She hates me," I sobbed to a coworker the next day.
"No, she doesn't hate you," he said knowingly. "She will hate you. But, she doesn't hate you now."
This man, you see, was the father of a teenage girl.
Really, now that I look back, what was all the fuss about? Basically, our job as the mother of an infant is to feed them, burp them, change their diapers and get them to sleep. Along the way you have to support their little head and change them from one adorable outfit into another — six or seven times a day. Their tiny hands curl around your finger and (whether it's just gas or not) they look up at you and smile.
Oh sure, some days are tougher than others. At six months, after I nearly fell asleep in the Sumner Tunnel on my way to work, we finally gave in and tried the dreaded "Ferber Method" so she would sleep through the night. Basically, you teach them how to "self-sooth" by letting them cry for five minutes, comforting them, then letting them cry for ten, then twenty, then thirty, etc. etc. etc. Forty-eight hours later, she was all set, and her mother (that would be me) was permanently traumatized.
But even on those endless nights, life was easier than I realized. If I could go back in time and counsel my younger self, I would say, "Stop. Breathe. Enjoy this."
I'd say, "Sister, you ain't seen nothin' yet."
Here's a short list, in no particular order, of the things that keep me up at night these days:
• Grades. She's in ninth grade, that's freshman year high school. Suddenly, there are hours upon hours of homework. Suddenly, there are tests and quizzes and mid-terms, oh my! Suddenly, good grades count. (And, just as suddenly, they are much harder to come by.)
• Cutting. Sadly, I don't mean cutting class. I mean cutting one's arms (or legs or God knows what else). It bothers me that some of my daughter's friends are doing this. It bothers me that she even knows about such a thing.
• Online safety. Texting, sexting, Instagram, Tumblr, Skype, Snapchat. Just a couple of years ago, we were concerned about letting our then tween daughter have a Facebook page. That was so yesterday!
• Mean Girls. This topic comes at me from both sides sometimes. Within the same week I can be comforting my daughter as the victim of a particularly nasty encounter and trying to help her see how she herself might be perceived as mean.
And last, but not least, there's the time I spend missing and mourning my baby. The days when that baby, practically grown now, barely mutters a single pleasant word to me. When I can tell that I am no longer her bestest, most favorite person. In fact, I'm more like her least favorite, most annoying, barely bearable person.
We used to play that game ... "I love you more. "No, I love you more." "No, I love you more." "No, I love you more."
Well, for now at least, I win. I love her more.