Every stage of parenting is hard. I feel like there's this myth about certain milestones ushering in an easier time for us parents, and I believe many of us believe that myth in the beginning. And while some things do become more manageable, the fact of the matter is that being a parent means deciding that you have opened yourself up to a lifetime of new challenges. But there are definitely more than a few challenges of having a school-aged child that precisely zero people warned me about... or maybe they did and I was just too busy with a tantrum-throwing toddler to pay attention. I don't know, my brain doesn't work anymore. I've been doing this parenting thing for way too long. Leave me alone.
My son is 7 and, on the whole, things are so much easier now than they were when he was, say, 2. And it's not that I didn't enjoy him when he was 2, because I did, but he was a challenging toddler and I've always had just a bit more fun with kids that are old enough to hold an actual conversation. So, certainly, personalities come into play when assessing relative difficulty.
But while the past few years have been a ton of fun they've come with an entirely new set of challenges. Challenges that are totally unlike anything that came before. I mean, nothing in the infant, toddler, or even pre-school years really prepared me for any of this. It's like I'd been playing kickball for five years and then all of sudden we switched to soccer and no one told me until it was up to me to score a goal. So with that in mind, and because us moms could all use a little "head's up," here's how having a school-aged kid could be trying at times:
It's not to say that toddlers and preschoolers aren't socially complicated creatures, but school-aged kids bring it to the next level.
Seriously, second grade can occasionally look like a G-rated episode of Game of Thrones, full of machinations, backstabbing, battles, and powerful but constantly fluctuating alliances. I understand this only gets worse as social media is introduced in middle and high school. God help us all.
So Many Activities
I limit my kids' activities to one per kid per season. And still, between that, playdates, the things I need to get done for the family, and just kind of keeping them generally entertained, I'm more or less constantly in motion or running between things. It's a lot. Yeah, you're constantly harried when they're infants and toddlers because they physically require so much care, and things certainly die down as they becoming older and more self-sufficient, but the energy transforms and is replaced with this constantly hustle and bustle that I didn't realize had sort of overtaken my life... until it did.
Having To Answer Increasingly Complicated Questions
One of my very favorite things about watching my kids grow up is observing how they begin to intellectually engage in the world around them. They're absorbing all kinds of new ideas and are growing into curious little creatures who can interpret all the information flying at them a mile a minute in unique and interesting ways... but this also comes with challenges. Because sometimes they need your help figuring some things out and it can be hard to explain.
It's not that the questions they're asking are inappropriate in the slightest (though sometimes they are, in which case I recommend answering honestly with as little actual information as possible), but something like, "What's the Electoral College?" or the classic, "Where do babies come from?" can be overwhelming. It's like, "OK, I think we're all ready for these conversations and answers, at least on some level, but I don't even know where to begin describing something so fundamental."
So Many Opinions
My children have always been very opinionated, and that's great. I (mostly) love that about them. But hitting school-age means more opinions, stronger opinions, and more clearly articulated opinions... and sometimes that's challenging. Mostly it's cool, but sometimes, like when they want to watch 27 hours of some stupid YouTube channel that consists of little more than a grown man frenetically screaming as he plays Minecraft, you get to hear about how, "No, actually it's really funny!"
OMG no, kid. No.
I'll pick something out for my 7-year-old to wear, only to have him look at it, wrinkle his nose and say, "Oh. Definitely not." And then he'll go ahead and put together a legitimately amazing outfit that is far better than anything I cobbled together and, damnit, that's humbling. My kids are both way more stylish than I am. That's a tough pill to swallow.
Being Stuck In-Between Stages
Yeah, they're "big kids," but they often over-estimate just how big they are. And, also, sometimes they want to do the "little kid" stuff and, I'm sorry, kid, but you're 48 inches and 52 pounds and I just don't think you're going to fit on that tricycle meant for toddlers anymore.
I feel like there's a lot of talk about how teens are at an "in-between" stage, but it really starts so much earlier in some ways. Growing up is hard, man, and why I've personally always tried not to do it.
It's so annoying how hard my kids fall for whatever stupid thing other kids are into. It's almost always small, overpriced, collectible plastic junk. From fidget spinners to Shopkins, I loathe it all and I want to launch them all into the sun.
Peak Marketing Susceptibility
School-age kids are really open to suggestion which, from an evolutionary standpoint, I suppose is useful in that they learn things. But at the same time, I can usually calculate how long after a commercial my child will suggest I buy said item. Sometimes it's not even a matter of us being better off buying it: we need to buy it.
OK, seriously, guys, I get it, I do, but it makes me angry on two levels. For starters, I resent to my marrow the idea that we have to crowdfund our children's education by selling cookie dough and wrapping paper and magazines. THIS IS WHAT TAXES SHOULD BE FOR. I would happily support the idea that everyone should be paying more into something as monumentally important as the intellectual development of our future leaders, movers, and shakers.
It also makes me angry on a petty level, because I don't need wrapping paper or cookie dough or magazines. These various (noble and sadly often necessary) efforts are never-ending. Just as one fundraiser ends another begins. The worst is when they try to motivate the kids to get involved by promising them various prizes, which are always junk but your kid becomes convinced they will never be happy if they don't win that walkie-talkie or whatever.
No Longer Having A Huge Physical Advantage
Honestly, it doesn't come up as much as it used to because you are generally more able to reason with them, but every now and then they'll have a moment where you will have to use your physical size to your advantage (pick them up and carry them somewhere, get them into a car seat, or hold them down for a vaccination) and you realize that this was a lot easier when they were, like, 25 pounds and fit under your arm. Now they're just a mess of gangly limbs and pure, grade-school fury.
Bringing Home "New Ideas"
If you think your kid is weird, you should hear some of the sh*t other people's kids come up with and then tell your kids about. This can run the gamut from mildly amusing and inaccurate ("girls pee from their butts") to wildly problematic and offensive. As someone who's three years into the whole "having a school-age child" thing, I want to really encourage you to try to get a bead on what your kids talk about with their peers, because there will likely be a need to course correct.