I had heard of the terrible twos and the ups and downs of the toddler years.
But no one ever told me about the challenging sixes.
Instead, when I was at my wits' end with a four, three, & two-year-old, more mature mamas said things like, "Just wait until they're all over four. It will get easier."
It didn't. In some ways it felt harder.
The tantrums didn't go away--instead they increased in intensity and length.
It was a challenge to be happy or "steady" or any positive mothering adjective.
I felt like a failure. Since no one else ever talked about this, it certainly must be me and my mothering to blame.
Tantrums seemed to magically occur when it was my writing time--this fact alone nearly sent me over the edge many days. I thought I might need to give up writing completely--in many ways it didn't seem like I had much to say that would encourage other mamas anyway.
Then one day the lights came on as I read this book: Your Six-Year-Old: Loving and Defiant by Louise Ames. Someone knew what I was talking about, and they were telling me I might not be completely crazy OR a bad mother:
"Five by nature tends to be quiet and restrained, calm, obedient, good! Six can, oh so often, be expansive and out-of-bounds, contrary, violent, hard for a mother to live with."
The book didn't miraculously change anything...except my own expectations. Instead of waiting for some magical age when it would get "easier," I began to see that each age and stage would have its own brand of joys and challenges. I couldn't postpone my happiness by counting off days until a child turned a certain age.
I remember reading in one of my favorite discipline books, Easy to Love: Difficult to Discipline, that kids didn't really become compliant until after age eight. As my kids were only four and under at that stage, that fact wasn't much of a consolation. Now that my youngest, sweet Elijah, is about to turn eight, however, I can see that for the most part, the author was right.
I've only just emerged from the "sixes" so to speak. (I have two precious boys under my roof, remember!) When one came through this phase, the next began. And they tracked through it on their own timetable--I learned a lot while along for the ride.
It's true, life has gotten easier in many ways. It's true, I feel happier in my parenting journey now more than ever before.
I say all this, not to frighten those of you whose kids are nowhere near the age of six! All children develop differently and will not mimic each other. I say this because I know, someone reading this, is in a stage with a child (at whatever age) in which they worry and fret and wonder "where did I go wrong?"
And I want to let that mother know:
You haven't gone wrong. Keep doing your imperfect best. Keep believing. Keep sowing the seeds of love in faith of the harvest that will one day be ripe.
You're doing a great job.