If I'm honest with myself, I really believe caring for little children is a young person's game, and by young, I mean younger than me. Of course, I'm not advocating teenage pregnancy, but there are many, many days when I wish I had the level of energy I did when I was 16, or even 26. Trying to keep up with a 4- and 1-year-old makes me feel every day of my 36 years of life. When I heard about Halle Berry pregnant at 46, my first reaction wasn't, "Man, what kind of crazy fertility water has she been swimming in?" Instead, I just felt plain exhausted at the thought of caring for a baby, toddler, little kid at 10 years older than I am now. No matter how many nannies I employed (and if Halle's smart, I bet she has a few), I don't think I could do it. And if my husband and I feel like we're worn out by our little ones, just imagine how my parents feel when we invade their house.
First, let me say that my kids pretty much won the grandparent lottery. They have four superinvolved grandparents, all of whom dedicate a ton of time and even more energy to them. These are not hand-the-kid-a-cookie and pat-his-head kind of grandparents. They take us on trips more than once a year, they plan fun excursions for my kids, they get down on the floor and play pretend picnic. In short, they can hang, and they do, amazingly often. But I can tell they're getting tired. Seriously, after a few days with my kids, they sort of look like they might fall asleep standing at any second, and I know there have been times when my mom has taken to her bed only minutes after we pull out of their driveway.
This weekend, we spent a couple of days at my parents' house in Indiana, where it was nonstop activity. A barbecue with family friends, a fun photo shoot for the kids, a pool party with a bunch of my high school friends and their little ones, a trip to the local petting zoo where we met 20 baby goats . . . the excitement just kept coming. After 48 hours of all party and too-little sleep, I could tell my parents were kind of done with us. It's not that they don't love having us around (and granted, they were leaving for a two-week trip to Turkey and Greece a day later, adding to the stress), but if it's hard for me to keep up with my kiddos at my age, imagine how it will feel in 30 years? Will I be as willing to sign up for overnight babysitting and weeklong trips as my parents are? I truly don't know if I'll have it in me.
One major advantage my kids and I have in our grandparent situation is the fact that we're the only game in town. My husband and I each have one brother, but neither of them has children, meaning that any and all grandparent energy is directed to our kids alone. While I'd love for our kids to eventually have cousins, I'm quite happy that it hasn't happened yet. There is none of the competition for Saturday night sitters that I hear about from friends. None of the total burnout that my parents have seen in their friends who juggle time between six, eight, 15 grandkids. In the stage that we've needed help the most, during the physically demanding baby and toddler years, we've had all hands on deck. (Seriously, bro, could you wait another few years or so to start a family? Or at least until my youngest is out of diapers?)
Will my in-laws be as open to our weekly Thursday afternoon babysitting arrangement or my parents be as willing to take the kids for a weekend in the years to come? As they inch into their mid-60s and past 70? Hopefully, but I'm guessing it will continue to get more and more difficult and just a little more draining with every passing year. Getting older is a good thing for my kiddos, but when it comes to caring for them, aging is just plain exhausting.