What I Learned From Having Kids In Two Different Generations

I've been a mother for more than two decades and, although I imagined myself preparing for an empty nest around this time, the reality is that I have a one-year-old and twin babies. Life is full of unexpected twists and turns, and I've learned to just roll with the punches. Besides, some of the best things in life are not planned, right?


In all honestly, finding out that I was starting over was a punch in the gut, at first, but along the way, I've learned to embrace it. I can absolutely say that I've grown and learned a lot from having kids in two different generations.

​Family pictures are crazy

I have three older children who are in their teens and early 20s, including a son who is 6'3" — when he's slouching! It was hard enough trying to squeeze him in to a shot with his similarly-aged sisters, so it's even more ridiculous trying to get all six of these kids into the same frame.


Every holiday, I save myself the headache by having my "original trilogy" (clever, isn't it?) sit on the couch while holding the three babies. Those squirmy little guys are getting harder to tame but it works for now! When I scroll through the images on my phone, I am still amazed that my body was able to produce these six miracles with so many years in between!

​Built-in babysitters

With my first children, it was pretty hard to do anything around the house. Babies and toddlers don't care if you need to use the bathroom, take a shower, or make dinner, so you have to get creative with how you get things done during those early years.


This time around, I have a great team of helpers who are more than willing to pitch in and watch their little brothers while I run to the grocery store or — gasp! — head out for a date with my partner. It's pretty great, I cannot even lie — especially since two of the three babies lose their minds when they see a vacuum or broom. Instead of dealing with a meltdown, an older kid takes the little ones to a different room and I'm able to get some of the crumbs off my kitchen floor.

​Some resentment may exist

No matter how much we all love each other, things aren't always perfect. I have always been close to my older kids, but our tight-knit relationship intensified after I got divorced. Since they were more grown up, we started doing more adventurous things and we really enjoyed that time together. All of that came to a screeching halt once I became pregnant, and I've always felt bad about that.


There are times when I can tell that my teenage daughter and son wish that they had my undivided attention again, especially as they make decisions about school and the future. It's definitely not easy, but whenever I feel guilty, I just have to remember that I'm doing my best.

​Birth options have changed

Things were pretty predictable back when I had my first child in 1993. You found an ob-gyn, followed the plan they suggested, and when it was time to deliver the baby, you showed up at the hospital and did what you were told. It wasn't terrible, but I never felt truly empowered.


This time around, I became annoyed by being labeled a "geriatric pregnancy" and having everything dictated by my doctor. Of course I respect medical guidance, but I also wanted credit for having had three completely natural births. I wanted to feel respected and like I was an active participant in the process. I discovered that my city offered a variety of natural birth options, so I chose to combine the best of both worlds: a midwife (assisted by my partner) delivered my baby at a hospital by the glow of a lava lamp while I listened to the Hair soundtrack. Groovy!

​Social media changes some dynamics

When my first three kids were little, they didn't really have to deal with social media as it exists today. There was no Snapchat or Instagram and, admittedly, I miss those simpler days. I didn't have to worry about cyberbullying, murders and suicides being broadcast through live feeds, or them discovering that the food on their plate paled in comparison to what everyone else was eating.


I wonder and worry about how much more interconnected we are going to become by the time my little guys are old enough to understand social media. We already know so much (too much?) about people's lives and, too often, it makes us feel inadequate in our own realities. I don't know what this will look like in a few years. For now, I'm just taking deep breaths!

​My phone is a blessing and a curse

In 1993, my brother brought a clunky camcorder to the hospital to record his niece's first moments of life. We marveled at the technology, and while holding my new baby, I smiled and waved for the camera — then we turned the thing off and actually talked to each other. We all survived, and the footage is sweet and honest.


Today, we take photos and videos constantly which is great in some ways but also has its downsides. It's easy to get distracted by a phone and actually miss out on things. When I rocked my baby to sleep years ago, I occupied my mind by memorizing the little lines in her face and the curve of her tiny fingers. Today, I catch up on Words With Friends and often miss out on those precious moments.

Still, it is pretty great to have a handheld device that allows me to connect with other mothers and Google random symptoms when one of these babies won't stop crying or has an unexplained rash!

​Educational options are different

Years ago, you signed your kid up to go to the local elementary school and patiently waited for kindergarten to mercifully begin. Over time, you cursed the system because your child wasn't fitting in, didn't conform to the expected outcomes, and came home with hours of homework (what do they do all day, anyway?!). Pretty standard stuff.


Nowadays, kids can learn from anywhere because technology makes distance education and homeschooling a viable option. I started homeschooling my oldest in junior high (and she's since gone on to earn a bachelor's degree), but I'll probably just skip regular school for the young ones entirely since we love to be outside enjoying and learning from the world around us.

​Circumcision is more controversial than ever

Here in North America, it used to be a given that a newborn boy would be circumcised. As a culture, we embraced it and no one really challenged or questioned it. In fact, despite the fact that most men around the world are uncircumcised (the World Health Organization has estimated that only 30 percent of males around the world have been snipped), North Americans often associate that extra bit of skin with being unclean and undesirable.


Now, we are seeing declining numbers of infants being circumcised as more and more parents question the practice. I have felt guilty about the fact that I have made a different decision for my younger sons than I did for my oldest, but we all do the best we can with the information we have at the time.

​Gender roles and stereotypes are changing

When my daughter was born, the line between boys and girls was pretty solid. There were toys, activities, and clothing that were designated as appropriate for each gender, and most people really bought into it without really questioning it. Things have definitely changed in this area.


Today, sayings such as "be a good girl" and "boys will be boys" are heavily scrutinized, and there's a significant push for women to succeed in occupations that traditionally have been dominated by men. This dynamic has absolutely affected how I encourage and support my children, what toys I buy, and which companies I support.

​Sexuality is more openly discussed

I can remember when my oldest daughter's class was preparing for their first sexual education lesson. A very vocal woman from my former church descended upon me in hopes that I would help her fight the school. She was shocked (very shocked) when I said that, as someone who had once been a teen mother, I appreciated the fact that my daughter would be getting valuable information and that I looked forward to talking with her about it after school. Our friendship ended pretty soon after that.


Things have changed dramatically since those days. Now, we not only discuss the mechanics of safe sex, but as a society, we talk about sexuality in a much broader way. We include gay, lesbian, and transgender issues in our conversations, which is a huge leap from just a few short years ago. This will make the sex-ed lesson I have with my little guys very interesting in the future!

​Kids don't play outside like they used to

When I was young, I couldn't wait for recess so that I could get outside and burn off some of the special kind of energy that only small children contain. At the end of the school day, I'd race to my bike so that I could enjoy the ride home with my two best friends. When it snowed, we'd get together and build forts and pretend to be in the Arctic Circle.


By the time my oldest was born, that kind of enthusiasm for outdoor play had dwindled a little, but my kids still loved being outdoors. She and her brother swam all summer, and in the winter months, I'd have to drag my son home from the hockey rink. They biked, ran 5K races, and went to camp.

A few things have changed since then. It seems like this younger generation is more than happy to stare at a smartphone, tablet, or game console all day — even when they are outside! The ones who do want to get out and play have a hard time finding other kids who want to do the same, and it's just sad.

​Walking home or anywhere alone is risky

On top of the fact that kids are absorbed with gadgets, we have become terrified of the world around us. Kids of all ages are being abducted, and it has made parents reluctant to let their kids out of their sight, understandably. Just listening to the news every day is enough to send a chill down your spine.


The few parents who do try to foster a sense of independence in their children are often met with other challenges. Who hasn't read a headline about someone being reported to the authorities or child protective services for daring to let their child walk home alone from the park? It's a really frustrating dynamic.

​Little kids have cell phones now

My son and daughter had a Furby and some Tamogotchi keychains when they were young. That was as digital as they needed to be back then. My ever-current older brother had a pager at the time, and we were all amazed and impressed by that!


It still blows my mind, therefore, when I see a small child with a cell phone, especially if it belongs to them. It's almost dangerous for us, as adults, to have that much information at our fingertips, so it's a little scary to consider how hard it has become to monitor who our children are communicating with, what they are watching, and what they are learning. It's probably the most stressful change for me as a mother, if I'm honest.

​Kids' schedules can get pretty hectic

There were afterschool programs that my kids could do when they were little, if they wanted to. Then they'd come home and watch cartoons while I got dinner ready. On the weekends, I'd sleep in a little while they popped in a Disney movie on VHS, and then we'd go for a walk or a drive and then tackle the mall if we really needed some excitement. It was so chill.


Families today are busier than ever trying to juggle their hectic schedules in a never-ending quest to ensure that their kid doesn't miss out on anything. There are so many programs and activities that many parents rely on digital reminders and carpooling to keep everything straight. I don't know how, but I'm planning to avoid this one entirely. I want my kids to be active and to have a lot of experiences, but I also want them to understand how to slow down and enjoy life!

​Shopping for clothes and toys online is great

My oldest son and middle daughter never asked for anything when we'd go to the store. My firstborn was the complete opposite. She'd nag and whine even though she had to know that I wasn't going to give in to her demands (since I never did!). One time, she threw herself on the floor at Sears because I wouldn't buy her a Sailor Moon puzzle. I laid down beside her and started screaming too. She was so startled that she never did it again!


I can skip that whole nightmare now by shopping online! No more getting to the store only to discover that the item I want is sold out. No more hopping from place to place looking for the best deal. No more surprise items that my kids have thrown into the back of the stroller. Instead, I gather my coupon codes, open a few tabs on my browser, and place my order. I even do this for groceries. This is my favorite thing ever.

​There are a lot more movies and shows

It was so easy to keep track of what your kids liked and watched twenty years ago since there really weren't a lot of shows. If 4:30 p.m. rolled around and your child didn't enjoy Digimon, they'd find some toys to play with and their lives would continue, somehow.


My toddler isn't even two years old yet, but he knows how to find the 5,000 channels in my cable package that air programming for his demographic. He also knows how to browse through a YouTube playlist on his dad's iPad, and guess what? He still acts like he's bored. That's when I open the screen door and head out into the backyard. The technology-heavy deck may be stacked against me, but I'm not going down without a fight!

​You will rely on years of experience

At the end of the day, I did my best all of those years ago with my first three kids. I made a ton of mistakes, but there was something beautiful and simple about those days before technology made our life "easier" (and more distracted). I find myself reflecting on the mother I used to be when I didn't have text messages competing with my babies for my attention.


I've also learned, though, that I took myself too seriously back then. I wish I had calmed down and trusted my instincts more. I'm letting my heart guide my decisions this time around instead of worrying about meeting some unrealistic standard set by my friends, family, strangers on the street, and society at large.

It's hard work to be a parent. It's also hard work to be a kid. I think it's even harder for this new generation, so I think the most important thing I've learned is to love more, judge less, and hang on for one crazy, unpredictable, amazing ride.