There are certain stages of parenthood that are just dang hard.

The newborn phase: sleep deprivation. Raging hormones. Stitches. Recovery. Endless feedings. Crying. So. Much. Crying.

That phase was HARD.

There were moments I wondered what I had gotten myself into as tears streamed down my face. But I also had an endless supply of information at my fingertips and advice from doctors and other mamas. I knew I would eventually figure it all out, and that one day, I would sleep for more than an hour at a time.

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The toddler/preschool phase: potty training. Hauling your screaming child out of stores while they kick you like a ninja. Whining. So. Much. Whining. A bajillion questions. Growing independence.

That phase was HARD.

Yet, I knew what was coming. Who hasn’t heard of the terrible twos? Who hasn’t seen the lists on social media of the funny reasons your toddler has cried that day? It’s a humbling experience to go from, “My child will NEVER do that,” to, “My child has already done that once today and will probably do it again before bedtime.” But it’s not really a surprise when it happens.

The tween/teen phase: I can’t yet speak from personal experience about this one, but it has basically become a cultural norm to talk about how hard it is to live with tweens and teenagers—what with all the hormones and attitudes, and trying to keep up with their hectic schedules and busy social lives. So I’m just making an educated guess on this one!

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But this elementary stage? I never expected it to be this hard.

I never knew how much I would worry about my child’s safety.

I never knew how helpless I would feel when my child’s hurt was no longer fixed with a cuddle or a colorful Band-Aid.

No one prepared me for how to handle that first concerned phone call from a teacher.

No one told me how it would feel the first time my child seemed embarrassed by my sheer presence at his school. (I knew it would happen eventuallybut ouch.)

No one told me how my heart would sink when my child was exposed to something at school way before either of us were ready.

I never knew how hard it would be to send my child out into the world each day with a million what ifs racing through my mind.

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I never knew how I would struggle with when to step in and when to let the chips fall where they may.

This elementary stage?

It’s HARD. In a completely new way I wasn’t really prepared for.

If you know a mom of an elementary student, don’t assume she has reached an easy season of parenting.

Sure, she is no longer in the throes of extreme sleep deprivation. She hasn’t recently hauled a screaming toddler out of a restaurant or handed her teenager the keys to the car for the first time.

But give her a hug, anyway.

Chances are, she could probably use it.

Mary Ann Blair

Mary Ann Blair is a stay-at-home mom living in the Pacific Northwest with her two little gentlemen and hubs. She loves connecting with other parents who like to keep it real! Her work has been published on Her View From Home, Motherly, A Fine Parent, Perfection Pending, That’s Inappropriate, Pregnant Chicken, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Red Tricycle and in Chicken Soup For the Soul. She can be found at maryannblair.com or on Facebook at Miracles in the Mess