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The Hardest Experience I've Had

The Growing Pains of Parenting

“If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.” ~Albert Einstein

Middle-childhood. Six year olds. I understand very little of what comes out of their mouths. It takes a great concentrated effort to untangle the day’s happenings from the truths, half-truths, sensitivities, and general understanding of the sequences of life.

Parenting older children. This is the hardest experience I have ever had.

I don’t worry about my preschooler the same way—she is still protected. Her communication is still pretty straightforward (she doesn't understand the subtleties of communication and its manipulations yet). But her turn will come.

In my opinion, a day with a baby is far easier than a day with a six-year-old.

Parenting—It. Just. Gets. Harder.

Last week my girl came home crying because one of her best friends decided to ignore her for most of the day. She didn’t understand why this was happening—but clearly it meant something to her.

The week before some kids were making fun of her jacket saying the shoulders made her look funny.

"Little girls are cute and small only to adults. To one another they are not cute. They are life-sized." ~Margaret Atwood

I don’t remember my six-year-old self very well. But I do know that I was well protected by my mother and father. I don’t know how they did it.

How do you teach a girl confidence? How do you teach her to be strong?  

I. Have. No. Idea.

I am a working mother of three, fairly successful at what I do, while still finding time to do crafts with my kids on the weekend. I can balance budgets, manage staff, draft proposals, and go home and help with homework while whipping up dinner (or something that at least can be called food). But no one can prepare you for this. I'm learning in the dark here. How do I teach my girls to navigate their path to womanhood so they don't get hurt?

The other day my girl was invited to another little girl’s house after school. It would have involved a male parent picking her up, taking her to their house, and driving her back home at night. I couldn’t let her go, even though I knew this parent (although not well). Night. Males. Cars. Are you kidding me? Chances are it would have been a perfectly lovely evening. But I couldn't let her go.

This filled me with anxiety for a whole week.

I hate having to talk to her about strangers, non-strangers, and all that icky stuff. It is so icky.

I wish so badly we lived in a world where children were cherished more than money, more than desire, more than adults.

So this is the hard stuff. Not changing diapers, feeding them, clothing them, bringing them to dance class, or swimming lessons. Those things are physically exhausting but they aren’t hard.

It is how to guide them so they can protect themselves in all sorts of situations; it is listening to them when their heart is breaking and guiding their feelings to a destination of understanding; it is trying to make choices for them that help keep them safer, without denying them the happiness or freedom of childhood.

This is parenting. This feels impossible.

There is a fabulous quote that says when you decide to become a parent, you are deciding to forever, “have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

As my children grow, the farther away they wander, the stronger the pull of my heart. The more overwhelming I feel parenting becomes.

There are no safeguards in parenting—other than instincts. It kind of feels like the whole family is jumping off a cliff. You won't know until you get there, if you have landed safely.

Read next: Play and Leisure
Anneke Olvera
Anneke Olvera

Anneke is an online communications teacher, and a Manager in the public service sector.  She is married with three kids, and enjoys traveling, reading, and navigating the complexities of parenthood!

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The Hardest Experience I've Had
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