What happens when your youngest child turns 5? I’m a bit nervous. When she turned 4 last year, I found a dead bird outside our house and freaked out.
My knee-jerk reaction and superstition went into overdrive. I Googled “What does it mean to find a dead bird?” The answers that came up relieved me. My favorite one went something like this: Although there is no definitive answer, the common consensus among spiritual leaders is that a dead bird symbolizes the end of something and the start of something else. Overall, a dead bird means a new beginning.
Ah, yes. It made sense at the time – days before discovering this dead bird last year, I’d just started a new job back on television in Los Angeles (that I’m grateful to still have) and I’d just scored a publishing deal to write my very first book for first-time moms, called “The FAB Mom’s Guide: How to Get Over the Bump & Bounce Back Fast After Baby.”
I had two very lucky beginnings that happened at once. I’d been preparing for that dead bird. I should’ve expected it, but it made me nervous at the time, probably because I knew I’d have to rise up and meet my own expectations with the new goals I immediately had ahead of me. Or else.
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As my youngest turns 5, I feel that same shaky excitement because I know I must rise up. Or else.
I’m told that when your youngest child turns 5, you enter a new stage in parenting.
You’re out of the baby-years and into the school-years – having more freedom yet also more responsibility, because the babies you’re now raising are small people who will soon be adults. The stakes become higher. Five is halfway to 10, which is halfway to 20.
After age 5, our kids can potentially turn into jerks who can’t rely on excuses like “Oh, she didn’t have a nap today” to get her out of trouble. After age 5, they either have compassion for others or not. After age 5, the years go quicker and we have less and less time to make sure we’re doing our job right.
Age 5 requires parents to step up and be four steps ahead of our kids – no matter what exciting things may be happening in our lives, careers or otherwise.
Maybe that’s why I’m a bit nervous about my baby turning 5 – because, as a parent, I imagine the years ahead of me will require more refined moxie and resilience to let go (while also staying close) and to grant freedom that will make me cringe (even when I might question if my daughters are ready).
And don’t get me started about today’s debate over the right age to get a cellphone. (I’m saying it’s when a kid starts driving and I’m sticking to it.)
A few weeks ago, I was at a family wedding and had a brief and fun conversation with the bride’s grandma – a great, very strong lady. She was laughing and telling me how modern parents are too easy on our kids, how we let them get away with too much and how all this hubbub about being a parent nowadays is so loosey-goosey.
I absolutely agreed with her, 100 percent. (My friends and family will confirm I’m a tough cookie with my girls.)
My daughter’s fifth birthday is also a powerful marker for me to step up and pay extra attention to the job of mom from here on out. These past five years, I’ve been able to get away with a lot of goals being all about me – the book, the TV job. It’s been a thrilling ride, and I’ll continue to stay on the ride as long as it’s meant to be.
But, now the really big goals at our house, for my kids, begin – to not let them accidentally turn into jerks and make sure they become capable to do things for themselves. They made their own peanut butter sandwiches for lunch the other day – seems like a good start. Or else. Or else all that talk about resilience to do right by our babies, in my book, means nothing.
Happy birthday, baby girl. If any dead birds find me on my lawn again this year, I’ll let you know.
Jill Simonian was born and raised in Fresno and graduated from Sanger High School. Founder of the TheFabMom.com, she is a parenting lifestyle expert for CBS Los Angeles. Her first book, “The FAB Mom’s Guide” will be available in April and is being pre-sold on Amazon. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter @jillsimonian.