When your groove just comes back on its own

I have said this in real life to four people this week, so it's making me think it's something I need to say here: You turn normal again when your youngest one is 5.

I have no idea why 5 years old is the magical age. I did not believe it myself when a former boss told me that "everything gets OK again" when your youngest one turns 5. At the time, my younger one (who is veeeeery intense–not highly-spirited but some different variety of human anyway) was 2, and I could not imagine a time when he would not be sucking a ton of energy from me.

But I noticed a huge switch in the two months after he turned 5. I've talked about it with his dad, who noticed the same thing. It relaly is lke having two people now instead of children who need to have everything done for them.

In conversation with other parents of kids who've just turned 5 it seems to hold true for most of them. It's an energy shift that happens, similar to that energy shift you probably noticed when your child went from a baby to a toddler, only this one seems to be less work somehow.

And the end result is that your child is far more competent and masterful, and you notice more energy and emotional space.

Has anyone else noticed this and want to confirm it? Is there anyone who is in the Red Zone with little little kids who need to talk about that lack of emotional energy?

I think it's often easy to focus on how physically tired we are (even when our kids are techincally sleeping through the night) that we forget about the toll the constant on-dutiness takes on us.


83 thoughts on “When your groove just comes back on its own”

  1. It’s funny you write this now. Because I have two almost 4-year olds, and I’m currently teaching intro human development which I haven’t taught since before they were born. At the front of the textbook there is a “landmark table.” Under 3-4 years for emotional development it says “negativism peaks… little explicit awareness of pride and shame.” Then under 5-6 it says “negativism declines. Child recognizes pride and shame in others, but not in self.” It made me think about how I parent (expecting pride/shame from my kids), and also, made me hopeful for 5!

  2. THANK YOU!! Although it’s a (relatively) long ways away (I have 4 yr old and a 1 yr old), it’s nice to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I figured life must get easier someday but at times it’s hard to believe. The constant neediness, tantrums, toddlers not being able to communicate what they really want/need, night-waking, etc. Of course, this could be a trick…is this like when you have a newborn and people say, “just make it to 6 weeks, it gets so much easier” and then you reach the 6 week mark and they say “oh, 3-4 months it really gets easier” and so on and so on πŸ™‚

  3. I wonder if this is different depending on the gender of the kids. My youngest (a girl) is almost 5, but if anything, she has gotten more emotionally intense the past few months. So, I’m hopeful, but trying to be realistic – would love to hear from others who are parenting girls if 5 is the significant milestone that it is for boys.

  4. Wow, this is exciting to hear! My son is just about to turn 3, and I already feel so much more human than I did a year ago. Knowing that there’s another bump like this ahead makes me happy!

  5. Nah, this did not happen to me. No major change in normalcy when the Little One turned 5. One’s own individual experiences can change what might be a general trend in that sense. Life was pretty much a trainwreck (in terms of normalcy for me – due to dealings with the outside world wrt the kids, not due to the kids, for the most part) all the way through my kids’ childhoods. And then, just as they were about leaving the nest, my own life took a dramatic turn for the suck.So what’s normal, anyway?
    Not saying one can’t adore one’s kids, and have happiness along the way, it’s just “normal” which eluded me all those years.
    I’ve got a new groove now, and it is good.

  6. I have felt this way about my son since he was about 4.5, so I pretty much agree. But with another one on the way I’m kind of braced to start over. I am hoping this time I can make more time to “fill my own well” but with two…ahahahaha.

  7. Yes, this ABSOLUTELY happened for me. My younger daughter is now 5-almost-6, and in the past year I’ve taken up running, started doing a lot more writing, and I just generally feel like I’m having my own personal renaissance. It’s like I can finally turn some of my energy back on myself and do a little self-nurturing.Plus, my two daughters, who are 2 yrs. 3 mos. apart, are finally get along so well. Seriously, I almost put the older one in therapy because she seemed like she might do some serious physical damage to her baby sister. I was just saying to my mother that I wish the 4-years-ago me could see how the sibling relationship is today, because I was so stressed out and tormented, and the change has been unbelievable.
    Mamas, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Or maybe it’s just a break in the tunnel before adolescence hits?

  8. Rach, “almost 5” is VASTLY different from 5+ a month or two. Vastly. Vastly vastly vastly. I can’t even express how clingy and needy the almost-5s I’ve known have been and then how they came out of it right after 5. It’s freakish.

  9. At the risk of jinxing myself, my daughter at 4 and a few months is already much more independent and easy than before, and she’s been pretty easy since the late 2s. I have been away overnight with nary a moment of sadness on her part, and other outings during “family time” which she has been fine with. She has had a period of extreme sensitivity, but it seems to be past (remission?), so crossing fingers.I like that there’s a milestone in our children’s age that relates to our getting our groove back!

  10. This is reassuring. I have one at 30 months now, and am seriously thinking he may wind up being an only because I cannot comprehend how I would manage with more than one. I looove him more than anything, compared to others in our orbit of friends and family he is “easy”, but sometimes I cannot stand to BE around him. Is that completely awful??

  11. This is spot on Moxie! My oldest one is five and I must say I really like five! Just a few months ago I would not have believed a word you wrote since the very same, then almost five-year-old, was totally draining all my energy. It is such a shift in energy and I am not quite sure why. We are more on the same team trying to solve problems than me on one side trying to stop him. Though it is not as obvious from the outside as the energy shift at three when they finally break out of the 24/7 suicide watch that begins when mobility kicks in. Luckily I have an almost two-year-old to keep me grounded…

  12. I completely agree … five just feels so much more manageable. He’s really a little person now. But now I _really_ question whether we could have a second and do it all over again …

  13. @amanda, if it’s awful, then we are all awful. It is so hard with someone demanding so much of you all of the time. My three year old sings “Farmer in the Dell,” but replaces the words with “Mommy.” So it’s “Mommy mommy mommy, mommy mommy mommy, mommy mommy mommy mommy, mommy mommy mommy.” There are days that I want to just peel my skin off and run away. Oh dear god, it can be awful.But then he rubs his face on my arm and tells me I smell like strawberry pie. Yummy.
    I hope the intensity wears off at some point. I feel like I live my life at 11, and sometimes I really would give just about anything for a sensory deprivation chamber.

  14. Thank you for the ray of hope!Boy #1 is 3 1/2, late at toilet training, and we’re just a week out from our last horrific poop accident. He was slow to talk, but now he’s saying “don’t say ‘mmm’, mommy, I don’t like it!” and yet I just don’t have it in me to hold up my end of a repetitive conversation about his matchbox cars.
    Boy #2 is 11 months, screams every time I go to the bathroom, and doesn’t sleep through the night. He’s easier than his brother was in so many ways, but he seems to continuously wind himself up, if I pull away from him or try to make him cry it out.
    I’ve been promising myself that when the little one turns five, I’ll hire a live in nanny for the summer and hike the Appalachian trail, or something, ALONE.

  15. Well, this at least gives me hope. My kids are 4 and 2 1/2 and I’m not even sure what having emotional energy means anymore. DS (2 1/2) is very loving and playful but is also VERY attached to me. DD (4) is like an emotional whirlwind all the time. This even gives me a little hope that things might be somewhat easier when SHE turns five even if I still have a couple of years to go with DS. I have to say that I’ve found 3 and 4 to be far, far more difficult than 2 was was/is with either of them.

  16. Not true for me as an introvert. My 5 3/4 son requires so much emotional energy. He sucks me dry. Him going to K this week has been like getting an anti-depressant prescription. The never ending jibber jabber about Scooby Doo and space ships drains me completely. I can hang with my 1 year old 24 hours a day no problem because he can’t talk to me yet.

  17. At a work/life panel I attended at work, I asked one of the panelists whether it gets easier. At the time I was pregnant and had a 2 year old, and the panelist had a teenager. She said no!! And no one contradicted her!I sat there quietly ruminating to myself that it must just be that they’ve forgotten how hard the newborn and toddler years are. At least that is my hope.
    So by saying that it gets easier around 5, you have made me feel a lot better.

  18. With my 4.5 yo daughter, I find my naps getting longer (while she watches tv), not because I’m sleeping, but because my eyes are closed and I don’t want to get out of bed/couch, and I already take 2 anti depressants. Trying to find a running partner who can go after the break of dawn. Her dad helps so much, but being a mom is not a good fit for me.

  19. seadragon, that panelist with the teenager sounds out of touch, for sure.My youngest is 21 months, and although I remember the exhaustion of the newborn months, the horrificness of the sleep deprivation is already beginning to fade.
    Even as the memory fades, I want to remember the fact that it was *dang hard* and empathize with new moms, not make them depressed thinking it doesn’t get easier.

  20. I thought 5 was awesome, mainly because it wasn’t 4. In my book having a 4 is payback for misdeeds in a previous life. My last one just turned 4. It is gonna be a long year. And then of course, I will be sad because I won’t have any littles left. You just can’t win! : )

  21. Oh how I love five year olds. I used to work in Pre-K and they were so much fun.My son is 2 1/2 and is super awesome but is also, you know, 2 1/2. I feel like I’m constantly trying to push past the latest stage and whatever form of exhaustion goes along with it all while reminding myself to enjoy him.
    I just found out that I have a five day business trip coming up in about 6 weeks and I got so, so excited over the phone when the organizer called to tell me that I would have my own hotel room for four nights. FOUR NIGHTS. BY MYSELF. You’d think I’d never stayed in a hotel before but luckily he has kids so he understood and didn’t think I was a total kook.
    And– I’ve had total babyitis for the last 6 months and I guess we’re going to do it all over again! What the hell is wrong with us that we do this to ourselves over and over?!

  22. Our pediatrician said to me ‘everyone warns you about the terrible two’s but no one says a thing about the f@$kin fours…’. I loved that because I know she totally gets it (her oldest is a year older than mine). I was so relieved she understood I almost cried. I think that’s what’s so nice about blogging too, is what you might not feel comfortable saying out loud in your real life, you can totally benefit from sharing w/ others and knowing-#1: you’re not alone, and #2: it will pass. We all love our kids so much, but that doesn’t keep us from being driven crazy by them about 75% of the time!

  23. I have waves of groove, even though my kids are 3 and 1. When my 1-year old was born, it was really rough. Then one day, as I was packing kids into the car, I realized, “This is OK. I’ve got this.” Now, fast-forward a couple of months, and I feel stretched and overwhelmed again.

  24. Wow – this post is very timely. I have a nearly 4.5 year old and a 15 month old and this week has to have been the nadir in my parenting experience. The 15 month is transitioning to full time day care (after a year at home with me) and I’ve gone back to work full time. He’s still crying all day there, then nursing all evening and not sleeping, just screaming, all evening until I come to bed and nurse him all night long so he’ll sleep. I’m so torn up with guilt over the transition but am going crazy with the insane neediness/not sleeping.On top of that, my 4 yr old acts out every time I turn my back, often hitting his brother, still poops in his pants, and also won’t sleep through the night. I’ve lost my temper, yanked arms, and yelled this week, something I’ve always managed to avoid up to now (usually by walking away when I’m frustrated).
    Sorry for the rant – this post just made me realize how exhausted I am from working and trying to be “present” for both of them all evening and night. SO GLAD to hear that it might get easier when the oldest turns 5 (at least until he’s a teenager!).

  25. I needed to read this today, as I am very depressed and unhappy about my abilities as a mother.I have three sons. My oldest is seven, my middlest is 3-going-on-4, and my baby is 16 months.
    My middle son has always been the veeeeeerry intense on (I totally understand your description of a kid as not officially “highly spirited” but still a very, very intense human being. I think he has all the potential in the world, but in the meantime … Christ almighty. I just don’t know how to describe that kid.
    My 16-month-old is a doll-baby who sleeps beautifully and has a very calm temperament. But he’s still a toddler. So that means he gets clingy and cranky at times, and constantly endangers himself with the new-skills-no-judgment thing. And as I hop-skip to keep up with him, the other two are off fighting and turning the house upside-down and generally robbing me of my sanity. By the end of the day, my communication with the oldest two consists pretty much of me screaming at them for the hitting/kicking/dismantling.
    There are times, recently, when I feel like I love them only in the abstract. Like, I’d be sad if something bad happened to them. In fact, when you talk about “emotional energy,” most of mine goes toward *reminding myself* that I *do love* these children. But on a daily basis, I’m kind of wanting to be as far away from them as possible, and so this is where I get depressed because clearly I’m a suck-ass mother who is not doing A Good Job.
    Well, anyway, I’m totally hijacking the comments. I guess I’m just trying to say that as a mom sorely in need of encouragement, you provided some today, and I thank you. I have to believe that things will Just Get Better.

  26. Reading the comments, there is so much unhappiness going on right now around the reader community! I also notice that all of my friends are cranky and (no joke) on every errand I have run this week, people in line are incredibly impatient. The season is changing – do we think that has anything to do with it? Just wondering why I am crabby, and everyone else pretty much seems crabby too!Also, it seems like a lot of the “no, it’s not easier” comments are actually coming from people whose OLDEST is 5, not youngest… I think maybe that may make part of the difference?
    Hoping we all get happier, soon!

  27. Ps, I know that moxie asked us to talk about our current lack of emotional energy (I say us as I have 2 very little ones)… Not a comment on anyone else’s comment specifically… I was just thinking that I could rant for hours about how emotionally tired I am, and then wondered what is making me feel that way so very much right now! And why I am observing the same in others even outside of this comment stream…

  28. My boys are 5 1/2. I LOVED 4. Still sad to see it gone.That said, I get what Moxie is saying. I’m finally getting a life again – slowly, but I see it happening. I’m starting to have real adult conversations with friends when they come over, at the dinner table, etc. I think one of the big reasons is that the transition to my husband and I being our sons’ WHOLE life (even though they have little friends and love our adult friends) to friends being so much more fun to be around than the parents and them being able to play together so much better that adults don’t need to constantly be involved with their play. That means the adults (be it my husband and I or friends that have come over) can sit around and talk or do things while the kids play (obviously we are still keeping an eye on them).
    Hang in there those with the under 5 kids – I think it does get better, especially in the sense that Moxie mentions where you can start to have a life again. It definitely doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of disciplining challenges (I think age 5 is really hard to discipline) but it just means your personal self gets to start emerging again.

  29. Thanks for this. I needed a little pick-me-up, and even though my younger child won’t turn 5 for 3 more years, it is nice to know that I won’t feel this way forever.I’ve also heard that for people whose children are spaced about 2 years (or less) apart, that 4 and 6 are when a big change occurs for the better. Anyone have thoughts on this?
    I’m bracing myself for a really difficult weekend. I’m watching the child of a friend for the next two nights because she has to work all weekend, and my husband is working all weekend as well. In spite of the fact that they both have difficult and stressful jobs, I’m so insanely jealous that the two of them get to leave the children behind for 8-12 hours of the day. They can go to the bathroom alone, they don’t need to teach little people how to handle arguments, they don’t need to listen to whining (or at least not whining from people they are emotionally invested in), they can get a drink in peace, they are valued at work, they get encouragement from coworkers, etc. It’s been a really tough few weeks around here.

  30. I’m with @enu on this one. My daughter is about to be 7 and my life still in no way resembles ‘normal,’ whatever that is. Being a single parent is definitely partly responsible, and my daughter’s intensity/emotional immaturity is too. And I think my parenting style is as well.I’m hoping normality returns before she graduates from high school!

  31. FIVE?? I have to wait til he’s FIVE? I was hoping when the little one turned TWO I’d be better…. I’m going to pretend it’s two. If I have to think about 4+ more years before I’m awake again, I might just quit. πŸ™‚ (Not really, but man am I tired)

  32. I am not quite sure how I feel about this. My younger child is 3 right now, and I am pregnant and due in a couple weeks. That means at a minimum I have 5 years and a couple weeks before I’m normal again! It’s nice to have a goal, but, man, 5 years??!!?!?!?

  33. Jill, I think it gets progressively better. Three was a big turning point for my first, very intense child. Sure, she had the horrible, horrible, three year old tantrums, but she could amuse herself for long periods of time too. But five was a big transition. My husband said he was finally getting his life back. Then we had another one. Fortunately for us, he’s a much easier kid.(Although I worry much more about peer pressure for him when he’s older. There are pluses and minuses to all temperaments.)

  34. @seadragon and others – IME teen years were TOTALLY easier than baby/toddler years. No question, no contest. Well, so far, anyway, with < 8 months of last teenaged child ahead.

  35. Oldest turns 5 in January, and I can see glimpses of a shift, like a curtain blowing a bit in the wind and unveiling a beautiful beach scene.Youngest is almost 18 months, and although in many ways SO much easier than her high-needs, highly sensitive brother, she’s velcro toddler right now. She’d be perfectly happy to ride on my back all day and night like a proper little Amazonian baby monkey.

  36. A colleague at work said the same thing to me recently… she asked how old my baby is, and when I said that she’s almost 11 months old, she said, “well, then things will start getting easier in about 4 years!”I can already tell the difference in the demands on me from my 3 year old and my almost 11 month old. The 3 year old is far less demanding- and she is definitely the more intense of the two. So I’m actually sort of hoping things will get easier gradually. Maybe even so gradually that I won’t really notice it happen- like the way a canker sore gets better really slowly, and then one day you just notice, “hey! Its gone!”
    @Amanda- I definitely have times when I just want to run away. It is hard to have a little one who needs so MUCH of you. I think what you feel is normal, not awful.

  37. @Allison–totally with you, sister friend.@ksb–you’re giving me hope.
    Our younger is five next week, older is 7 a few weeks later. Older is still horrible to younger and I feel adrift in a house with kids I don’t understand. (Well, one.)
    As to Moxie’s original posit: yes, I think 5 changes things for *most* kids. Alas, my older–the “spirited” one–not so much.

  38. Mine turned 2 in May and just today I noticed how much less of a helicopter mom I need to be since his birthday. In the past 2 months he explores while keeping me in sight, his climbing at the playground has gotten really good (my heart isn’t constantly in my throat), and he can do the slides by himself. I am almost able to sit down and watch him play. Almost.I look forward to every age with the understanding that some years the cons will take up more of my emotional energy than others. Good to know that five is a year to look forward to. But some of the things I’ve ready here make me a little nervous about what lies between here and there.

  39. Sorry, no time now to read comments but wanted to quickly add – yes, yes, yes!My son turned 5 late Spring and we moved over the summer. I was trying to put my finger on why I feel so much more connected to new mommy-friends/aquaintances when their youngest/only is 5+ vs. other parents who have a 5 yr old and a younger child. There is almost, dare I say, a sense of resentment when I hang with parents whose children are 5+ vs those with youngers. It definitely seems to stem from lack of sleep and lack if emotional energy left over to make new friends. Hmmmm, I’m sounding judgy and I don’t mean to at all. But there is something there.
    There is also something very unique and interesting about being the parent of a planned only child who recently turned 5. Yes, there are still worries and power struggles and stuff (as in the little Kindergarten freakout on my part …) but it is very different from pre-5. I have mental space, energy; it is a welcome growth.

  40. 2 years to go! I have noticed that my friends with older children seemed to have quite normal lives. I’ve been hoping that some day I too might return to the sanity that I once had.

  41. I was just thinking this today! Although my youngest is 3.5, it is COMPLETELY different than even 6-8 months ago and continues to improve. I feel sane. Yes, there are times I’m still frazzled, but it’s definitely the high point of the last 7 years of being pregnant, baby-ness, toddler-ness, then new baby-ness etc etc. The constant work simply WEARS YOU DOWN.And you know what, in some ways I’m truly thankful for it because I SO appreciate the stage I’m in now.

  42. Hey Camilla! My son used to say something like that, too: “Don’t say mmm-hmmm, Mummy!”I too have been looking forward to 5 in some ways–my son is fairly verbal, so sometimes it’s easy to believe that he’s capable of older-kid reasoning and impulse-control. It’s hard to remember he’s only 3.5.
    As for my daughter, I’ll be glad when the night waking and intense Mummy-need abates, although I’ve been enjoying her chubby 13-mo self (so incapable of evil! My last baby!). I’m tired of being exhausted, but I now see a light at the end of the tunnel!

  43. Yes! Life is good! The horrors, screaming and uncontrollable fits started to turn into “Mama, this is wrong because…” We took a vacation and drove from Atlanta to Niagara Falls with no electronics in our car. I was so wonderful that we are headed to Yellowstone next summer. At the pool I can let him go with friends to any part of the pool and I don’t worry about him drowning. I send him to get the mail and he does. I’m *thinking* of letting him walk home from school without me. Yes, five was good. Five was the turning point.

  44. Thank you! I’ve been seriously wondering what was wrong with me that I need a nap constantly and am sick all the time and want to be a fun person for my kids but I snarl all the time … negativism, pride shame … so much to ponder.

  45. I just want to say thank you, Moxie, for putting a positive spin on something about parenting. I have a 1 YO and am so tired of hearing the neighborhood mommies bitch about all the bad things – wah wah wah. It is draining to listen to all the time. There are hard things about having babies but there are good things too! Thanks for highlighting a positive angle.

  46. @meggiemoo: again, parallel lives. At 4.5, the curtain is giving me peeks of freedom, ease… even if it’s just a mirage, it’s giving me energy and hope now.Case in point: not only is T. finally sleeping through the night (yes, it took four-plus years), using the potty successfully without reminders (ditto), weaned (ditto), but… pouring himself a bowl of cereal! Saying “Mommy, you look pretty today. I like that blue dress.” (My God, I’m wearing a dress, which means I had time to shave my legs.) Offering to share a stick of gum! Waking up at 7 AM, not 5! And then reading! To himself! Unprompted!
    It’s a brand new effing day. (In this kind of mood I’d have another, but four more years of sleep deprivation would finish me off.)
    And next week we go from homeschooling to school. 25 hours a week – ohmygod I can write and exercise and even shower daily. I am praying at the altar of easy transitions, mostly that I haven’t jinxed everything by reveling here.
    Luck and fortune to you all…

  47. This post could not have come at a better time. Two daughters, one just over 2 and the youngest is 4 months. They suck the energy out of me EVERY DAY. It’s refreshing to hear REAl moms say that “yes this sucks and it will get better.” All I seem to hear is “Enjoy it, it’s gone before you know it.” I despise that kind of talk.Being a mother is hard, thankless and no one ever really recongnizes how hard we work. Many nights of crying and wallowing this week, but as always Moxie knows how to make me feel a little better about being a mom and I remember that it is normal to feel this way.

  48. We need to get the word out to our fellows going through the terrible 2’s (which are also the 3’s!). I also noticed that there is some maturation process going on, I feel it even more at 7 years old, it is awesome!www.gaynycdad.com

  49. I have 2 1/2 year old twin girls who are very high energy and so very emotionally draining. My husband simply can not understand why I need to lay down to rest every day when they nap for 60-90 min. They go no stop from 7a – 8p except for the nap. I have NO energy for my husband at night – I simply shut down and want to go to my own happy place with my book and then to sleep. Age 5 seems like a long way off but at least there is a light to look forward to

  50. I’m sorry, much like our copy of the liberal agenda, it seems my family didn’t get the memo re: o hai, ur 5 nao, plz b nrrml. Could you please send an extra copy c/o Rabid Badger #2?kthxbai

  51. I honestly think all newborns should come with a helpful 5yo sibling. Mine are 5.5, (almost) 3, and 2 months, and aside from the 90% probability that at any given point, at least one of them is screaming, it’s actually easier in a lot of ways than when I had a 2.75yo & 2mo. 5 can be whiny and argumentative, but it’s overall so full of awesome.

  52. I’m just grateful to Moxie for calling it the Red Zone. I’ve been in and out of it over and over this summer, and I’m ambivalent about starting preschool because what if I miss her terribly and am at loose ends without her on me ALL THE TIME, and also what if it’s STILL NOT ENOUGH time apart for me to start to remember some semblance of my earlier self? Oh, I am so Red Zone. Thank you. We’ll get to 5 in 2.2 years, and I don’t foresee us having another AND retaining any shreds of my sanity at this point, so it’s nice to see that we’re about halfway to regaining some normalcy.

  53. In my experience, this is absolutely true. When my daughter (first child) turned 5, it was like my life completely changed, stress was way down, and I was much happier. And then I got pregnant 5 months later. I actually cried when I told my husband (I was a wee ambivalent), because I had just started to feel like my life was becoming more of my own again. Of course, kid #2 is completely awesome and when I remember that ambivalence, I think, “Man, you were insane to worry about this!”. BUT — he’s 3 1/2 and I cannot believe how much energy it takes just to be around him! Before I read your post, I told my mom just this morning that things will get so much easier for me in 18 months.

  54. I think more than returning to normal, it is finding a new normal. I am entirely changed by my 5 and nearly 4 year old kids. Starting kindergarten has been really intense. Thought it would be a breeze : ). Good to hear there is relief ahead. The teenager stories scare me.

  55. @Amy – I don’t know about teens from a mom perspective yet, but I used to work with street kids. real bad a**es. Once I was ok with not being cool it got easier. Other than that developmentally it is very similar to the 2 – 3 year old stuff. The same things still work with teens that work with younger kids. Consistency with discipline builds trust and respect. This helps your loving actions and words hit their mark instead of being deflected. I know it will all be harder to go through with my own child, but my goal is to set the stage now. I see parents that are lax with their kids when they’re young try to reign in with discipline when they get into their teen years. That rarely seems to go well.

  56. Oh yeah. Red zoning it over here. Still in the middle of the 26/27 month / teething funk. Multiple night wakings again. Nursing for 45-60 minutes at a time… and he’d go longer if I could bear it (this, I find the hardest to take. DS hasn’t done that since he was a baby, and I no longer have the patience). Not wanting to go down for naps, screaming at the top of his lungs ‘Mama, Mama, Mama’. The tantrums, strangely, I can manage (except maybe when sleep deprivation is at it’s worst). They are limited and for the most part can be avoided by telling DS what’s up next (i.e. Two more Elmo videos and then we’re turning off the computer).I am totally emotionally drained and DH is on his way to being the same. I feel like the worst parent ever for not being able to figure this one out. I mean, it’s not like I don’t have experience with other sleep regressions. I can’t tell if he’s nursing so much because his teeth hurt, or he’s going through some kind of separation anxiety or fear. I don’t know how best to help DS and it kills me. Intellectually I know this will pass, I know each phase is different and can’t always be managed the same way as the last one. But emotionally, I feel like I suck.
    It’s good to hear that likely, after 5, the groove comes back. But honestly, in the middle of the red zone, it just feels too far away. The crazy (and good) part of this red zone is that outside of nap time and middle-of-the-night time, DS is an absolute delight. He’s laughing all the time, running and playing, a bit more independent, learning new words every day. Really fun. But maybe it’s the rollercoaster of emotions that’s killing me? DH & I both tend to prefer more even keeled emotional atmospheres, so maybe this is just our personal challenge – the fact that this stage for DS is the most challenging for our personalities.
    Anyhow, as usual, a post that is well timed. Maybe something is in the air?

  57. Since the Louise Bates, Your ____Year Old Series has been right on the money for all the other ages I hope the 5 YO volume is called β€œCompliant and Calm.”I have a good 4 Β½ more years until we are golden as I have a 4 YO and 4 MO (boys.)
    I can dream, right?

  58. Good to know. I just hit the horrible 3’s with my eldest, and with an 8-week-old sucking my sleep away at night (he’s not so bad, but I can’t pretend I’m not missing 1-1.5 hrs of sleep every night either), I want to climb out the window with the nonstop chatter and requests for play from the 3yo.I really thought she’d be my saving grace while dealing with a little baby (she was also WAY hard as an infant, I had no idea a baby could be so easy until #2 came along), instead he’s my ‘timeout’ from playing tea party/princess talk/dressing dollies.
    I’m hoping that she turns out to be a helpful 4 and not a tough 4 like some said. I’m so ready for preschool to start!

  59. I have twin 5-year old boys, and I agree that 5 is a big positive change. Actually, after years of having the half-years suck, this year we hit a really rough patch right at turning five, and then it’s been great since. At breakfast this morning, my spouse said, “Oh sure. They turn 5 and finally become agreeable and wanting to please you and calm down and NOW the state wants to take over for 6.5 hours a day!” My thoughts exactly. It’s been a golden summer, and I will miss them.

  60. @ heather v:Out of curiosity, I looked up the 5yo Ames and Ilg book. It’s “Sunny and Serene.” Sounds pretty marvelous to me! πŸ™‚

  61. I think you hit the nail on this one. My oldest just turned 6 and he’s a bit emotionally/maturitally(?) delayed, so his big shift came this summer and oh how I loved this summer!! It’s convenient because my youngest is right in the middle of 3.5yo emotional “growth” so the drain is huge on me what with the whining and the non-stop-talktalktalk and the questions and the tantrums (he’s very easy going and tantrums are new, from him, to us all). I’m grateful that #1 is starting school in a few days since it’s time to get serious about potty training (yeah, not yet).

  62. So, four data points, and I’d say that the obvious “ah, five!” was stronger with the boys than the girls. But the “ah, 3 1/4” was stronger with the girls.Overall, it just keeps getting better. My groove is definitely on a new trend. Not even all the time, but generally way better than always sunk.
    I also agree that it matters what personality type you are, and they are – introvert mom, extrovert child will remain SUCK. Very orderly mom and seat-of-the-pants-entropy-machine child will remain SUCK. But there’s stuff you can get in there that can help (so, siblings get the suck sometimes! but sometimes it all clicks). I like the book MotherStyles for going through the ‘how come I’m not like everyone else as a mom and my child isn’t getting the memo either?’ stuff… and also for showing me some of the value of the stuff that doesn’t come naturally to me.
    I generally am finding that my deep desire to write angst-filled posts exploring all the cr*p I am learning on a daily basis being a parent kind of *poof* evaporated around age 5, though… so certainly way less churn! Okay, good job helps, too, but I suspect that that constant-running-ness, the always trying to catch up to them, always discovering something … that’s eased off for now. And yes, it eased off right around 5 years old. For the youngests!

  63. Oh yes. My daughter is three days older or younger than your youngest (I forget which) and this shift has been really noticeable, and welcome. She is a real pleasure to parent, and is so darn reasonable that I’m actually surprised when she does things that only a little kid would do (hide her pajamas in the bookcase, eat toothpaste).It’s awesome.

  64. For those in the red zone-red zone, may I tell you that somewhere between 18 and 21 months things got easier. Oh, we’re tantrummy and not verbal around these parts, but I just don’t care. Perhaps that’s 5.5 years of sleep deprivation coming out, but you don’t eat dinner? I don’t care. You want to go outside at bedtime, I don’t care. 18 months was liberating to me. I have enough time to finish one sudoku per week. I have taken up running (albeit after they go to bed), I have some semblance of a libido back. My head is in the game at work (sometimes). It’s almost gotten good enough that I think about having a third (almost).

  65. This is what I need to hear. Keep saying it. I have three under age 5 right now, and the emotional physical exhaustion is, at times, mind numbing. I think that I will be one of the few moms who really enjoys having older kids. I’m sure that I will miss a few of the baby-stage-things, but I really, really value watching my children grow, mature, and become the really awesome humans that they were created to be.

  66. As my oldest is 5 1/2, I can see how this might be true. However, my younger ones are twin boys who just turned 3, so I somehow see it taking much longer to get easier with them!And Jill, yes, I’ve grown tired of the “they’ll be grown before you know it” comments. I’m sure that’s true, but it doesn’t help me get through the day, you know?

  67. I have a 4.5yo and a 2.3yo. In the past few weeks, I’ve noticed wonderful changes in the 4.5yo. He screams less, is genuinely helpful (to a fault at times, to be fair, but the intention is good), has a bit more patience (HUGE for him), and just generally seems to “get it” more. This morning, he got himself and his sister breakfast completely without an adult present and I did not come into a disaster in the kitchen. The empty yogurt containers were in the sink and Cheerios actually were in bowls. Weird.SO, I think something is going to click for real in a few short months for him, and I look forward to the younger one getting there too.

  68. I so needed to hear this and all the comments. I also don’t buy the “Enjoy it now; they’ll be gone before you know it” crap. Little kids are hard!Why are strangers on this board nicer to me than some people I know well, even one I’m related to?

  69. As someone who does not feel like a ‘natural’ mom in any way, I love my 4 y.o. daughter and being privy to her world of wonder and questioning in a way I could not have imagined even at 3 or anytime prior. She and I just returned from a fly-drive-explore a new part of the country trip (just the 2 of us, with stops at friends’ homes along the way) that would have been totally out-of-the question until recently. So, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this is a harbinger of more to come. I’m totally enjoying blending our interests, and no longer in need of subsuming all to (her) immediate needs!

  70. I have three under 5 right now (4.5, 2.5 and 9 months) and this gives me hope. I mean I want to tear my fingernails out one by one some days, but for the most part, the 4.5yo is trending toward awesomeness. The 2.5 yo? OMG, kill me now. And the scary part is I know how much worse 3 is going to be than 2 and I want to cry. But the 9 mo? Alle-freaking-luia, she is my savior. All smiles and chubby thighs, awake for two hours at a time, crawling but not pulling up, content to sit where you put her and play with toys, but also not sleeping through the night. Argh.

  71. Hmmm…two camps of posters here: (1) Yep, been there and (2) Really? Oh, thank the gods!I am in the latter camp. As much as I am head over heels with my son, it’s good to have something on the horizon saying “this will get easier.” Daddies need to get this message too, because I think for them the sea-change to parenthood can be at least as (maybe more?) overwhelming, but with less communal support.

  72. My neighbor/friend and I have kids with birthdays 6 months apart — both our oldests and seconds. And we often compare notes on ages, and this is what I told her about 5: Five is awesome. Particularly for our boys, 5 made a huge difference. I think it’s some developmental milestone for the kids. All I know is, 5 was my favorite age for my son. (8, by the way, not so much fun — at least for my daughter).

  73. @J: re crankiness/tiredness you’ve been noticing in general lately, mercury is retrograde right now (has been since 8/20), and MANY of my astro-friends have noticed a sharp decrease in energy since this (long!) retrograde started (I certainly have). Mercury goes direct again on 9/12. Here’s to hoping there really is something to that connection and that we get our energy back next Sunday! I find this blog a very helpful resource on the topic: http://inharmonyastrology.blogspot.com/

  74. I am in the red zone!! Two sons, almost 2.5 and 11 months and WOW. It’s intense. Always.I appreciate this post. So nice to know it does get better. Though honestly, I will have no idea who I am when I get to the other side, in five years. We’ll see πŸ™‚

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