A couple of days ago, I commented to my younger brother that now that that his kids are 7, 5, and 3 things are getting easier. But when I got off the phone I had to rethink that! Is it really easier the older your kids get?
I guess it's all about context. In the context of, for example, family vacation, yes, the older the kids get the easier it gets. You don't have to pack playpens, strollers, bottles, diapers.... You don't have to constantly slather on sunblock, take kids to the bathroom, or get up at the crack of dawn (if you've even slept at all!).
I also guess it's about your goals. Because depending on the goals you have in child rearing, the potential is there for things to get increasingly harder! When kids are little, for the most part they believe everything you say. If you tell them Jesus loves them, they believe it. If you tell them that purity in dating is what God wants, they believe you. If you tell them that God wants them to obey you they believe it. If you tell them it is bad to listen to certain music they believe you. But, as God designed it, the older they get the more they think on their own. They are supposed to! And their ideas are based on many things. Not the least of which is what they have been exposed to outside of their parents. Movies, commercials, friends, books.... All very influential. So even though their mom and dad have told them all of their life that God wants them to obey you, if that is not reinforced by what they are seeing around them they have to sort it out in their mind and make a decision in their own hearts. Purity in dating is definitely not normal in our culture- especially depending on your definition of purity! So are mom and dad right or is everyone else?
The process that kids go through as they get older to make their own decisions is NOT. EASY. (To the point that it makes the toddler days seem like a breeze!) Well, not easy if you want to be involved in the process and point them to truth. See, there was a time when I was involved in this process with one of the older kids. We did not agree on whether a particular thing was right or wrong. My first instinct was to say, "It doesn't matter what you think. You are not going to.....". But I remember exactly where I was when God convicted me of something. I have obedient children. I really wasn't concerned too much that this child would disobey and do the thing I was convinced was wrong and had told them they couldn't do. But I realized that they still did not believe that it was wrong. They had made the decision in their heart that they would obey me, but that I was not giving accurate information and that what they wanted to do was not wrong.
Easy would be to leave it at, I laid down the law and there now will be none of THAT going on! But what was going on in their heart? I do not control their heart. But God did not give me the job of mothering this child simply to control their actions. So that is where the difficulty got even more difficult!
First, I had to pray way more. I prayed so hard that God would change ME if I was wrong, but if I was right, that God would change THEIR heart so they could see and know the truth.
Second, I had to have long, stressful conversations with this child. I had to listen, ask questions, and gently point them to the truth- God's Word. It even caused me to look at myself and determine if I had been a hypocrite in any way.
Then, I had to love unconditionally. It is hard when someone flat out disagrees with you and will not change their heart.
I also had to be patient, because over time and practicing those three things, I DID see a change of heart in that particular instance.
But I am still in the thick of it! Although I've passed on the baton so to speak with my oldest, I still have a lot of kids at home! Sometimes I want to quit. Fine- do whatever you want, think whatever you want to think..... It's way too hard! But I KNOW that God does not want me to do that!
Thankfully, I am not in this alone and Matt and I are in total agreement. We are committed to working hard together and not giving up.
But back to my first statement about it getting easier the older they get...... Nope. Only physically. Raising children is not for the faint of heart. It's hard and doesn't get easier. (I have no way to know if it gets easier once they are all on their own with their own families. Check back in 20 years- maybe I'll have the answer then :)