Parenting is hard work.
It does not get easier, it just gets different. As the years pass, the physical becomes the emotional.
Raising infants is profoundly physical. The carrying, the lifting, the walking, wearing grooves in the floor countless nights pacing back and forth, bouncing and rocking. Always moving. Pushing strollers, carrying car seats and playpens and diaper bags.
Dropping into bed at night with aching muscles. Sleeping, but only half-sleeping. Laying rigid so as not to not roll onto the baby during the night. Waking up sore from the effort.
Raising toddlers holds many of the same physical challenges, but here the mental agility becomes more of a necessity. Chasing little bodies with seemingly boundless energy, until that energy runs out. Then carrying dead weight as they crash and sleep hard as only children can. Upstairs, out of cars, desperate not to wake them too soon.
Parenting toddlers means being able to read every facial expression and grimace in anticipation of bathroom runs. It means mental calculus - How much sleep during the day will keep a toddler up half the night? How much liquid before bed will mean laundry in the morning?
Raising toddlers means anticipating every move. Being constantly ready to leap across a room to remove errant objects from hands and mouths, or to scoop up sturdy little bodies when they come too close to stairs or roads or fireplaces.
Raising toddlers means having the mental agility to foresee hazards before they present themselves and the physical agility to remove the hazards unforeseen.
Raising school-age children gives the body a break. Finally. School-age children sleep through the night.
The mind gets a break. Kind of. Maybe.
That's a lie. Raising school-age children means remembering schedules, helping with homework. Be here at this time. Calculating costs.
School means time to honing your analytical skills. Analyzing the nuance behind the word 'fine', or the word 'nothing' in response to 'How was your day?' or 'What are you doing up there?'
Analyzing teachers, friends, other parents. Questioning your own influence on your child, be it from a quantitative ("How much influence do I even have, when TV and film and popular music exists?") or qualitative ("Is this the example I want to set?") standpoint.
Adolescence ups critical thinking and analytical skills even further. It's a gold-medal worthy performance of mental gymnastics, walking the thin line between offering a guiding hand and dragging headlong into your own idea of what they should be shaping up to be. The realization that their hopes, their dreams, their values may differ wildly from your own.
Being okay with being imperfect. That's a big one.
Shoring up your foundations for those days when you are the worst human being alive, when you know nothing. The days when you are the only thing standing between this human being whom you have loved with the very depths of your soul, whom you may have even made from your very flesh - the days when you are the only thing standing between this being and their happiness, and for this you are cursed, you are spat upon.
Gathering strength for the days when you question every decision, every indulgence, every harsh word, every "Yes," every "No" you've made as a parent.
Parenting is the exhaustion of constantly feeling like your heart will burst at any moment with immense love, and break with the knowledge that for all your desire to protect them and save them, that one day you'll let them go and have to hope that you've taught them what they need to survive.