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Embracing My First Grader Growing Up

I looked at my 6-year-old one day recently, and realized how much I really like the kid. He’s becoming a person that I actually enjoy spending time with! I mean, of course I “love” my kids, but I don’t always “like” them.  Let’s face it, the three of them are all age 6 and under and they each pack a lot of unlikable attitude. These days, though, I feel like my 6-year-old and I are finally arriving at a good place in life of getting along more so than fighting. He likes me again! And I like him again.


We started out our relationship in 2010 with things going pretty well. Being the first-born, he got the best of me for 22 months! But then the others came along…and I was stretched so thin that I was no longer at my best. This is where I start to get jealous of the Moms around me who only have one child.

Ever since Dean was 22 months old, he’s been a big brother and my attention has been permanently split. Sometimes I can just feel the poor kid screaming, “Why can’t you just pay attention to me?!” on the inside. Of course, his frustration was not always verbalized so easily. He wasn’t even verbal when he became a big brother!

Over the past 4 and a half years, his toddler angst about lack of attention has been expressed via screaming, extensive tantrums, nap refusal, turning bright red, and picking needless fights with siblings and Mommy. And since I was already stretched so thin, I didn’t always respond with the care and concern that he deserved. I always tried my best, but I feel like we missed out on a lot of nice bonding time together with all of the angst and screaming.  

But he turned 6 last May and things started changing. Somehow, a switch was flipped…he’s suddenly matured, has become more independent, cares less about sibling controversy and the tantrums (while still epic) are few(er) and far(er) between. Thankfully, he’s also finally starting to realize that I am not an evil-hearted witch who makes up arbitrary rules just to be mean…but that I’m just a Mom trying to enforce reasonable rules and socially-acceptable expectations for behavior. He came home from a play date today and exclaimed, “Everyone takes their own plate to the sink after dinner at Luke’s house too!” He’s growing up and I’m totally embracing it!

The random times during the week that I get to spend as “Mommy and Dean time” are so much fun, he really is a delight to hang out with. We can finally have real back-and-forth conversations! I love learning about what’s going on in his mind and what is important to him right now. It’s mostly Lego-related, but I’m cool with that. Any window that I can have into his 6-year-old world is super special to me. He is such a kind-hearted and funny kid, and seeing these attributes come out of someone that I have raised is so life-affirming. All that hard work, those deep breaths, the research into behavior and learning, and all the decisions made by my gut are being affirmed as I see him blossom into a person. A good person.

I am NOT complaining about being in charge of three little blessings, really I’m not. But part of me wishes that I had more time to give each of my children. There truly is no ONE BEST way to have a family, is there? One kid…three kids…ten kids…We all do it our own way, and we all have our own challenges in managing things. I find so much joy in my children growing up and becoming “actual” people. Yes, I miss them being sweet little swaddled babies. But those babies needed SO MUCH from me. And then they grow into toddlerhood, which is seriously challenging. Watching my first grader develop his own personality, interests and opinions is amazing. I’m all on board with him growing up….for now. Look for me under a rock when he hits middle school.

How are you embracing your kid(s) growing up?

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