As a parent, you’ll learn you have a parenting sweet spot. A year in your child’s life where you feel like you’re made for parenting. Like a 3-point specialist in the NBA, every shot you take goes nothing but net. Could it be the first year of your child’s life? Sure. For me, it was when my boys were age four. Ages 0-3 were physically exhausting with sleepless nights, constant feeding, diaper changes and chasing after busy toddlers. But at four, things started to click.
My four year olds were super curious, asking “why” questions nonstop. They were all ears, soaking up the world around them like little sponges. They were feeling semi-independent, wanting to dress themselves, make their own snacks, and take on little responsibilities. They were more engaged with stories, watching shows and movies with an actual plot. They were discovering their artistic side, loving to color, draw and get creative. And their palates expanded – they started enjoying foods beyond just chicken nuggets and pizza.
When my boys turned four, I started thinking maybe it was time to write a parenting book. I had this whole thing figured out! They were fun, relatively well-behaved, and seemed to think I was the coolest dad ever. What could go wrong? Then they hit five and the fairy tale ended. They became more defiant, questioning my rules and talking back. Friend conflicts and school dynamics started. Helping with homework became a battle. The constant questions turned into eye rolls. I was demoted from coolest dad to just another lame parent.
Two years later, I’m working on getting my shot back, wondering why it feels like nothing’s going in when I realize it’s not my shot that’s changed it’s the goal. I’m not even playing the same sport. Parenting isn’t like basketball, mastering a single skill over time. It’s like the Olympics, with new events each year requiring different abilities. So many challenges, some you’ll excel in, some you’ll adapt to but others you won’t even place. There’s no gold medal for parenting but the participation trophy is plenty enough. The reward is the journey.