Maybe you don’t have kids yet. Or maybe your kids are grown. Now that we have a new baby, I’m amazed at all the stuff I forgot about in the three years between our oldest and our newest.
So for those of you who don’t currently have young kids, here are ten things parents of young kids want you to know.
10. We need our kids to have people in their lives who don’t have young kids
Some of my three-year-old’s best friends are in their sixties and seventies. Some of his other best friends are in their teens.
If you don’t have kids of your own, or if your kids are grown, don’t think we don’t want you in our lives. We need you sooooo much! You remind us of what is possible, of what else matters, and of the treasure this time is. You remind us that our littles won’t be little forever, and you teach our kids things we can’t.
Also: you have energy that we can only wistfully hope for. When you spend some of that on us, it’s a GIFT.
9. We are so tired
We have never been this tired before. Pulling an all-nighter in college? Ha. Try a thousand of those.
Why are we so tired? Because it just never ends. The caring for, cleaning up after, negotiating with… it never ends. More of us live far from family than ever before. Some of us have a village of friends to help, but increasingly fewer do.
We aren’t complaining, mind you. We just want you to understand and give us a little grace when we say no to going for froyo at 9pm or serving on that committee or playing in the kickball league. We’re just tapped out some days. Most days. All the days.
8. We are so proud of our kids
Yeah, I know that all our newborn can do is raise her head three inches off the ground, but isn’t that cool? Isn’t she advanced? We made these little people! We are button-popping proud of that fridge art, that soccer trophy, that sandcastle. It may not seem like much to you, but to us that Lego tower is the shizzle.
Compliment our kids and you compliment us.
7. Fancy dinners are not happening
Can we eat at the park? By the pool? At a playground? Because if you’re expecting a fancy restaurant meal with more than one course to go well, you’d be wrong. If you’re expecting to start a meal after 6pm, that isn’t happening either.
Our kids aren’t naughty, they just can’t sit still for more than an hour. They’re kids. Unless we’re at The Rainforest Cafe, don’t expect to finish a meal in peace unless it arrives at the table in under fifteen minutes and we finish it in ten.
6. Naps keep us sane
“He didn’t nap today.” To an outsider, these might seem like four normal words. To someone with young children, this is akin to saying, “The basement is flooded” or “The car is on fire.”
Some days naps are all we have. The only time we get to ourselves, to tidy up, to make a phone call, to think one blessed thought without Thomas the Train chugging incessantly in the background. In a sixteen or eighteen hour day, that small period of time is oxygen. We depend on it. We count on it. We need it.
We can’t just skip it. Our mental health depends on the teeny bit of breathing room that nap provides. Our kids’ mental health, too because a kid who can’t nap can’t handle any curve balls for the rest of the day and that, my friend, is the worst.
5. We still love you
One of my friends had a baby six months ago, and then disappeared. Another friend and I mused about where she’d gone. Then I had a baby and fell down the same rabbit hole.
You may not see us for days or weeks or months (or years!). We may communicate solely in text messages and respond days after the fact. We may cancel at the last minute because of pinkeye or teething.
We are sorry.
We still love you. We will come back someday. In the meantime, have mercy. Give grace. Remember how tired we are. We promise that our silence or absence isn’t about you.
4. We want advice, but only when we ask for it
Every parent of a young child has been accosted by unwanted, unasked for, unwarranted advice at some point or another. This is UNHELPFUL.
There are times we really want advice. Times when we need it. But we’ll ask.
3. We crave conversation that’s not about our kids
Just because our kids are sometimes all we talk about doesn’t mean they’re all we want to talk about. It’s just easy to get myopic when our lives revolve around keeping tiny humans alive.
Please tell us about your life. Ask us about work. Remind us that there are things out there like novels and lectures and songs that don’t begin with phrases like “The wheels on the bus…”
2. We need your help to teach our littles about Jesus
It truly does take a village. This is perhaps nowhere as true as when it comes to raising kids to know Jesus. Of course, parents have the primary responsibility. We are with our kids the most; they witness how we live our lives day in and day out.
But our faith? It won’t be enough on its own. Our kids need faithful Sunday school teachers, peers who know Jesus, babysitters who pray, people one pew over who smile instead of scowl when our littles ask a loud question during a quiet sermon moment.
I am so unbelievably thankful for people in my sons’ lives who pray for them, encourage them, and teach them what is true. We will teach them, too, but we need reinforcements.
Our older son told us the other day that he had a baby in his tummy and that “Jesus is my baby.” Nonsensical anatomical and theological understandings aside, one of his Sunday school teachers remarked, “He’s starting to get it! After all, the tummy is very close to the heart.”
1. We are still us
I’m still the rock climbing, bluegrass listening, literature studying person I was before kids. Of course, now I don’t climb any rocks, my music playlist is full of Casper Babypants, and I’m lucky to read a book a month. But the person I was? She’s still in there.
Keep reminding me.
And keep asking us to join you on those fun and decidedly not kid-friendly adventures.
One of these times we just might say yes.