Six years old has been a very interesting age to parent. My son, W, is an expert at it. To ask him, he would tell you he is an expert at EVERYTHING.
“I can do it,” is the most common refrain heard around our home. Not in an encouraging, Little Engine sort of way. Oh no, I hear it accompanied with a wave of his hand and complete annoyance in his voice.
What he says is, “I can do it.”
What he means is, “Go away, Mom. I am all grown up now and do not need your help with any of the tasks of day-to-day life.”
Knowing when to walk away and when to help has been a challenge for me to learn. I want W to be independent and capable of doing things on his own, and part of growing up is taking on responsibilities. However I refuse to let him upturn a brand new gallon of milk onto his cereal without my hand steadying the jug. Sorry, kid, not yet.
Being 6 years old is exhausting. W goes through his day at full speed and by bedtime, he rarely has extra energy for cuddles or soft voices. If anything, he is annoyed to have reached the end of the day because he still had plans and things to do. He begrudges the sun setting and his body clock winding down.
“Why am I getting tired?!” is something he screamed at me the other day. As if I could fix it, as if it was my fault.
Like most parents I pour my heart into my kid all day, every day. It’s hard when the day ends and the last thing out of your child’s mouth is sass or anger. Almost always it isn’t about us. We are just the adult standing in witness of their evolution. Growing up is messy and clunky and loud and full of rage and ire and confusion.
Sometimes we can rush in and help if things are about to derail, but more times than not we can’t. The day ends, we read the bedtime story, and then quietly close the door to their rooms with a whisper, “Sweet dreams.”
Then what? How do we recharge and re-motivate to go once more unto the breach of motherhood? Here are eight little things that get me through the day.
1. Group texting with my mom friends
This is my version of counting to 10 to calm down.
Usually I’m frustrated by a parenting moment I can’t control. (Letting go of control is a HUGE life lesson motherhood is teaching me!) When I message my friends, it’s a quick vent, sometimes followed by emoticons. What I get back from them can vary, but almost always it begins with understanding, followed by attempts to make me smile and relax.
2. Knowing my mom is here to rescue me
Living with my mom is a HUGE advantage for both W and me when we’ve had a locked horns kind of day.
When my mom gets home from work she is an instant pop of the stress bubble. Many times she can read my face or my voice and tell how the day has gone. She’ll then whisk W up for a bath and bed.
Some days I end up clock-watching, just counting down until she’ll be home.
3. The promise of the silence of bedtime
Before I had W, I was such an extrovert. I loved large crowds and going out. Motherhood has turned me into an introvert who craves quiet. It’s probably because there is seldom silence during the day. Even when we’re having a great day, my son has a LOT to say. As much as I adore his chatter (and I do), I find that I must recharge with silence. Hello, bedtime.
4. The thrill of seeing my son after a day apart
Being apart from W during the day, while he is at school or camp, makes me miss him so much. I think about him nonstop and wonder what he’s learning or doing. When I pick him up, I always get this little thrill in my heart, a small flip of excitement the moment I see him.
Hearing about his day on the drive home is something I look forward to and it keeps me going through the rest of the day — especially one with a not-so-fantastic morning.
5. Taking an uninterrupted shower
Some days I simply count down to being able to take a shower without the door flying open and W asking me, “How many minutes until karate?!!!”
6. My hidden candy bar
I’m not going to tell you where, but somewhere in my home I have a candy bar. If W (or my mother) knew where it was, it would be consumed in an instant. I am more of a “savor your chocolate” kind of girl. After my lovely uninterrupted shower, I look forward to taking a tiny square of a Hershey bar and enjoying it.
7. A Law & Order marathon when my kid goes to bed
When the TV is on during the day, whatever we’re watching is kid-friendly and age-appropriate for my 6-year-old. It’s sometimes the same movie over and over. It’s ear-killing sound effects. It’s the prologue to some of my worst headaches.
I love a TV show with a plot, with amazing characters, with actual people (as opposed to animation). I can’t switch the dial to a Law & Order marathon during the day, but at night …
8. Watching my son sleep
At some point on most evenings I will feel the tug of my heart pull me towards W’s room. Just to look, just to gaze. Sometimes he wakes up a foot taller and I wonder if I can catch it happening while I watch him sleep. He’s an amazing boy, even on our hardest days.
I don’t expect every day of motherhood to be sunshine and roses. We’ve had some hard growing pains days around here. Looking back, as hard as those days were for us, they ultimately became a gift. They have allowed us to put all of our days into perspective.
We both are learning how to ask for space if we need it. We also are finding days where we crave nothing more than to cuddle and be close. And those days are all the motivation I need.