Originally created 02/11/01

Life is best when taken in stages

Middle age is when broadness of the mind and narrowness of the waist change places.

- Parenting 101

When I was young, a popular thought was to divide a person's time on this earth into "seasons."

Childhood, with its birth and growth, was spring.

The hot spells of adolescence were summer.

Middle age was autumn, and of course, old age was winter.

You have to admit, it has a certain balance even if we quibble over the fact that these four quarters don't usually correspond to a similar share of years (I've been stuck in autumn for decades).

But family experts Barbara Unell and Jerry Wyckoff offer a different way to mark stages of parenthood, because these are shaped by our interaction with our children.

Ms. Unell is a journalist and editor. Dr. Wyckoff is a family psychologist. Both live in Kansas City and have divided parenthood into eight stages.

See what you think.

Celebrity: This is the first stage and comes with pregnancy. You are the center of attention.

People treat you like a big deal. You enjoy it - except for the patting your tummy part.

Enjoy it while you can.

Sponge: The baby's here ... and you had no idea.

This is the stage you experience during your child's infancy.

You are soaking up everything - literally and figuratively - and are overwhelmed with the amount of responsibility you've suddenly been given and the amount of time it takes.

Sleep becomes more precious than gold.

Family manager: Your child is a toddler, not yet in school. You're living in chaos and constantly negotiating conflicts.

You move a lot of breakable things to high shelves during this time.

Travel agent: Your child enters grade school. His social life begins as yours ends. You become a chauffeur.

Volcano dweller: Your child is in adolescence. Get ready to rumble.

Don't be surprised to have every comment, command or thought you make questioned.

The authors think this can be the most difficult time for families.

I think the authors are wise.

Family remodeler: Freedom.

Your little bird has flown the nest. Now it's time to fix things back to the way you like them. Your relationship with your independent child changes yet again.

Plateau parent: Your child has entered adulthood and joined you as a responsible member of society. You might become a grandparent.

Your own parents are now near the end of their lives, and that can be traumatic. You find yourself wondering about things like retirement and mortality.

Rebounder: The roles have changed. Now you're old and need the care and attention of the child you've raised.

The biggest hazzard?

A bad job on the seven earlier stages can hurt you at the end - the best incentive I know for being a good parent.

Age doesn't always bring wisdom. Sometimes you just get age.

Reach Bill Kirby at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 107.


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