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Hey, Parents: There Are So Many Reasons Why You Shouldn't Fear Your Kids Growing Up


By Jeff Bogle, Goodhousekeeping


I would be a liar, liar pants on fire if I said that I didn’t, at one point, believe that parenting only gets scarier as kids get older.

Today, I’m a guy who adores being the dad of two daughters, ages almost-15 and almost-12, but not so long ago I was terrified of what was up ahead on my fatherhood timeline. It’s totally natural and normal to be afraid of the unknown, but the unknown isn’t the scariest thing most new parents face. No, the most frightening thing is what is known to moms and dads of older kids, their crappy experiences, and the din of fear mongering they levy upon new parents. The “Oh, just wait until they start to ______!!!” stuff we hear about tweens and teens from the moment we announce that we’re expecting. It's unfair and almost morbid.

The truth is there's nothing to be afraid of. The real scariest thing would be letting fear inform how you parent and prevent you from being there for your older kids at exactly the moment when they need you most: when stuff gets confusing, when their hearts gets bruised and battered, when life gets hard, when they are striking out on their own.

Instead of more fearful anecdotes, here are some of the beautiful, hilarious, wonderful things to look forward to as your children grow up. Because growing up isn’t scary, man. It’s marvelous.

1. You get to sleep in again.


When your kiddo begins to master the pouring of cereal in the morning, you get a crucial extra 15 minutes in bed. Sure, there’s likely to be a little spilled milk to clean up, but you know by now that’s nothing to cry over. The hardest part is realizing that this new morning routine, just like when they start to pack their own school lunches, means you won't be needed as much.

2. They stop needing constant reminders.

They eventually start washing up, making their bed (sometimes), feeding the cats, showering, and brushing teeth without being told to do so every. Single. Day. Granted, this evolution might take 10, 12, or 15 years, but the day will come and it will be glorious!

3. They find what they care about.

Young kids often yearn to give money to good causes, and that’s sweet. But at that age, the money they are eager to give away is yours! As they get older, it's their own skin in the philanthropic game - and they can start donating their own time and sweat as well. Then, it's wonderful to see their charitable side blossom with your wallet still firmly shut!

4. You can witness older kids forge their own identities, and demonstrate to them that, at every turn, you will have their back.

Five years ago, my oldest decided suddenly, while at the kitchen table enjoying her favorite meal - my homemade orange chicken - that she couldn’t eat animals anymore. While shocked, I didn’t treat her choice as a youthful fad. Instead, I showed her respect and have happily spent the last half-decade working hard in the kitchen to ensure both of my kids (the youngest became vegetarian two years ago) grow up healthy and get all the vitamins and minerals they need without a single ounce of meat, fish, or poultry. As a bonus, and this is part and parcel of being a parent, I have evolved too, becoming a more conscientious eater along this journey my kids initiated.

6. You'll watch them fall in love for the first time.

Seeing the light in their eyes or the honey glow in their cheeks. Being there to lend an ear, offer advice, and lean in with a warm comforting shoulder to cry on when needed.

7. The day your kids go and do something like start a small business from their playroom.

After spending years repeating affirmative messages like, “You can do accomplish anything if you put your mind to it,” they finally go off and do it! You help when they ask, but mostly you stand in awe as what they started grows because of their passion, persistence, and smarts.

8. You'll clock the moment you notice your older kids gain confidence from and find themselves.

Perhaps it's through Broadway musicals or sketch comedy shows, but one day you'll be listening as they deliver favorite lines of dialogue and jokes in their own voices - voices that have grown by leaps and bounds in the years since you swaddled them.

9. You get to take them to their first real concert.

Thanks to a burgeoning indie kid’s music scene, you can see seen hundreds of stellar daytime concerts from the likes of The Not-Its!, Alphabet Rockers, Recess Monkey, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, The Okee Dokee Brothers, Shine & the Moonbeams, The Pop Ups, and Gustafer Yellowgold together with juice boxes in hand. Then, when your bouncy toddlers become tweens and teens, stay up late with Alex Lahey, Gordi, Jukebox the Ghost, Santigold, Maggie Rogers, and Stand Atlantic for ‘grown-up’ indie rock shows in small clubs and theaters. Watching them sing and dance like no one is watching to their newest favorite bands might just be my favorite part of parenting older kids.

11. They start to learn how to find help themselves.


Having a kid who needs therapy can be terrifyingly scary, but watching that same kid accept that they need the kind of emotional help mom or dad cannot best provide is anything but frightening. When they attend their sessions (kicking and screaming at first, to be honest), then slowly grow and change for the better, it's a joyous surprise no one tells you about in those early years.

12. You can bring your tweens and teens on board to help you do your work, and watch them do it better than you.

My 11-year-old recently accompanied me on a portrait photo shoot, and many of her shots not only made it into the final portfolio, some of hers were the finest captures from the day. The intense pride felt in these moments is one of the things that makes growing up anything but scary.

13. They're finally old enough to watch your all-time favorite movies.

Now, I’m talking about the real movies you loved from your pre-parenthood days, the films with lots of cursing, inappropriate jokes, sex, nudity, and gore. Sure, it was cute to give your kids Mr. Rogers and Winnie the Pooh, but life gets so much better when you start to give your older kids Airplane!, Shaun of the Dead, and The Hangover.

14. They make a difference in their world.

When your kid turns 18, and you'll both make the transition from having them hold your hand inside the voting booth to reminding them to stop off at their local polling place on the way to work or home from school so they can cast their first vote for the candidates they believe will make their community, city, state, and country better.

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dearJulius.com: Hey, Parents: There Are So Many Reasons Why You Shouldn't Fear Your Kids Growing Up
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