I have really come to notice in the last few weeks how different it is to have a six-and-a-half-year-old. It may be the more formal dynamic of beginning grade one, or it may be something more developmental. Or both. What I have seen is that my oldest girl is entering a new phase of childhood and with it comes a big shift.
Physically, she is becoming a growing, gangly thing done with the baby fat of yesteryear. She complains of growing pains and of budding molars. She is proving herself a very capable athlete and can be asked to complete an increasing compendium of household tasks (notice I said I can ask her, whether she complies or not is a different ball game).
In that growing brain of hers, neurons must be firing and forming new pathways at an alarming speed, because I can hardly keep up. She often catches me off guard, challenging me to explain situations and issues to which I may not have an age-appropriate answer at the ready. If I tell her a white lie ("no, that isn't spaghetti squash, it's just a funny coloured noodle today"), I then need to keep up with a whole web of coverups or else she'll find me out and be outraged. I also have to finely tune my lie detector as she experiments with the newly-discovered power of lying to get out of trouble.
And therein lies the biggest of the changes I'm seeing: She is becoming a lot more interested in exploring and developing her morals and ethics. I see her figuring out social problems using logic, but also accessing her learned knowledge of what is right and wrong. I am feeling a great responsibility here to help her set the foundation for how she navigates relationships with others. Suddenly, it feels like, I went from deciding what kinds of solids to feed my baby to explaining moral codes.
That feels like a lot to take on, as I am still trying to tackle each argument, conflict or social issue in my own life by weighing the pros and the cons, the wrights and the wrongs. Like, who am I to be showing her the ropes when I still swear and say hurtful things that get me into trouble? This is the bread and butter, the nitty gritty of parenting. My decisions and parenting approaches feel like they really matter now, and that pressure to handle things correctly (or at least according to our family's morality) can leave me feeling quite inadequate. I have been feeling guilt and doubt like I never have before, as a mother.
I wonder if that goes away at some point, or if it just grows exponentially alongside Abby's shoe size?