When Parenting Deflates You

Have you ever reached a moment of deflation as a parent?

The preschool my son goes to is academic based; it really is school for little people that operates on a curriculum,   lesson plans, and is nationally accredited, so is held to strict standards.

Last year, he thrived in this environment. Even though he was the youngest in his class, he was also one of the brightest. His language was early, his vocabulary is quite advanced, he was fully potty trained (even at night) at 29 months, and his teachers always talked about how impressed they were with him.

I guess we were so impressed and pleased with him that we just stopped trying. We never stopped loving or taking care of him but we stopped trying to challenge him. He seemed so far ahead and we were so proud that we forgot to do a very basic part of parenting; teaching.

Earlier this school year, my mommy heart was broken when his new-to-him teachers said he was having a bit of an attitude problem. This was in direct contradiction to the rave reviews his first teachers had given him. I felt bad, because as he transitioned into three I transitioned into trying to find a balance between motherhood and womanhood again. I have finally regained parts of myself and feel balanced, but I am afraid that my new-found balance has thrown off my son’s.

I am also afraid that this set of teachers is quite a different fit. Last year he adored his teachers and talked about them frequently at home. This year he often says he doesn’t want to go to school and I don’t hear about his teachers unless I ask him directly.

Parent teacher conferences were held Monday. Unlike last year when I went in to pick him up each day and was very aware of his progress, this year he does car pool, so I very rarely see his teachers  I had a very narrow understanding on how he was doing in school.

Based on his teachers, he can recognize half of the alphabet, has no number recognition, and only a few shapes. The only skills he has mastered are colors and social skills with peers and he has a good start on writing his name. He still needs help wiping his bottom and pulling up his pants after going to the bathroom, when his teachers would like him to be self-sufficient at this already. He also is not able to dress himself yet, though the teachers would like them all to be able to put on their own coats to go outside. And the main concern they have with him is his attitude. He is frequently stubborn, says no, and once threw a tantrum in the middle of class because he did not agree with the way another student dressed the weather bear during calendar time. Also? They recommend he get a speech screening.

That is a lot of information to take in about your child in 15 minutes.

A lot of it I don’t feel bad about. I used to teach Kindergarten and it was the goal at the end of Kindergarten for children to have mastered all letter and number recognition, write their name and a few basic words, and recognize more advanced shapes. This will all come, but I also know that he is intelligent. He knew half of the alphabet last year. It is our fault that we have not pushed him farther this year.

And I guess we have just been babying him with self-care. I don’t mind still helping him wipe his bottom or helping him get dressed. I guess I just didn’t realize that these were self-help skills he should have mastered already. When I said this to my husband he said the same thing I’ve been thinking, “But he’s our baby.”

This attitude is something we are struggling at home with, too. I am finding three to be the most challenging age (so far) because he is full of attitude and pushing limits. I’ve talked to a lot of people who have said that three is harder than two, and I assumed his earlier attitude problem had to do with his lack of sleep and consistency due to the fact that in the fall I was involved in a lot of late night rehearsals for a musical production.

The speech I was expecting at some point, because when he was 20 months old my poor little guy had to under go general anesthesia and have extensive dental work done because his teeth actually came in yellow. (Weird, right?) Part of the dental work done was actually the removal of 3 of his four top front teeth. I anticipated that speech would be a part of his life once his permanent teeth come in, because touching his tongue to his teeth will be a new skill. I just didn’t realize it was something we would need to start already, but of course we will do that.

The hardest thing for me to take away from the conference was that all of these things are direct reflections on our parenting. We’ve babied him too much with self-care, we’ve not challenged him enough academically, and we’ve chalked attitude problems up to his age rather than addressing it as an issue. We are also very laid back and joke around type of parents, which has blurred the lines between authority figure and friend, and not set clear expectations for him.

The moment you realize that your child is not thriving and that it is entirely your fault is a very deflating moment.

I summarized the conference to his teachers with this, “I think he is intelligent, I think he has an attitude, but I also think he is very young in comparison to the rest of the class.”

He teachers said they agreed completely with that assessment.

And so we will try harder, baby less, and challenge more.

And I will be welcoming any and all words of (constructive) advice.




  1. I think it sounds like you are doing fine as a parent. I think the things they are talking about at school have everything to do with being 3, and nothing to do with your parenting.

    As for the attitude — three is hard! I have a 37 month old, and the transition in just the past few months from docile, sweet toddler to little boy with lots of opinions (and a need for instant gratification!) is staggering. As for the learning, he’ll learn in his own time. He’s mastering a lot of different things…I feel like it’s almost a little hyper-critical that teacher mentioned that he knew half his alphabet but no numbers….HE’S THREE! That’s a great start. I still wipe RJ’s bottom (and the teachers at his school still help out all the kids his age)…for me, it’s more of a hygiene issue than a developmental issue. Sure I can teach him “how” to do it, but I’m still going to follow up and make sure he’s clean.

    The only advice I have (and it may not be relevant) is to ask how many days a week he goes to preschool? R was only going 2 days for awhile, but we switched him up to 3 days, and that 1 extra day made a world of difference…it made school a little more a part of his regular routine, and we found that helped with his patience, the rate at which he soaked up knowledge, and how he interacted with others.

    Good luck! And btw, I don’t comment much on blogs (I usually read at work when I need a break, and don’t have time to comment)…but I love your blog and I’m a fellow Richmonder!

    • Thank you so much for your reassurance. Yes, three IS hard! I am finding three to be the most challenging age so far. I agree that the wiping bottom thing is as much hygiene as it is developmental.
      My guy goes to school three mornings a week from 9-12. He really likes his friends and LOVED it last year when he only went two mornings. It just seems like this set of teachers is not the best “fit.” I met with the director of the school who expressed some similar thoughts about how a lot of what they commented on seemed developmental. He is the youngest in the entire class, so their expectations may be high since most of his classmates are almost a year older.
      I am so honored that you took the time to comment on this blog and to hear that you like reading it! I love to know there are other Richmond moms out there going through these same ups and downs of parenting. Thank you so very much for your thoughts; they truly mean so much to me!
      Julia recently posted..The Unintentional Week OffMy Profile

  2. I totally agree with the above comment. I think that so much of this has to do with him being three. Belle has suddenly developed an attitude (and we are not quite 3 yet) and I think that the teachers are being a little too focused on the minute details. I taught kids for years before I became a mom, and age is a big thing in the preschool and early elementary years!

    Even my mother in law and I were discussing this last week — especially with little boys (who tend to take a little longer in maturing), it’s so important to listen to YOUR instincts as a his mom. My husband is just a few months younger than me, but he’s a June birthday and he was constantly the youngest one in his class. His mom felt that while he was really smart, he lacked a little maturing and wondered about holding him back in K, 1st, and 2nd grades. The teachers assured her otherwise, but she still feels like that was the best thing to do. I can see that as his wife! Todd would have really benefited from not being the youngest one in his class. He was consistently a little behind and even has a little trouble with some maturity things now as an adult.

    It just makes me wonder if he might benefit from a slight change. Also, the potty thing? I still totally wipe my girl, especially after #2. It’s a hygiene thing.
    April @ Red Dirt Mama recently posted..I have been called to serve my family. I mean, really.My Profile

    • April, thank you so much for your reassurance. After a lot of pondering I have come to the same conclusions; that a lot of this is developmental, but that he is just so much younger than the rest of these students. That is so funny that you can still see some of these signs in your husband!
      My husband and I talked a lot about it and have decided that we would like to hold him back. I would rather him be the oldest in his class and excel rather than struggle through school and have developmental/immaturity issues. And I do think that parenting a boy is so different. It has definitely thrown me a curve ball since I am such a girly girl!
      I met with the director of the school and apparently at this preschool next year there is an option for “young pre-K” or “older pre-K.” At the end of that year all students would be able to go on to Kindergarten, but the young pre-K would also have the option to move up to the older pre-K class before starting. This way, even though he would be held back, he would also still have the opportunity to move up and not repeat a year. I think we’ve decided this would be the best path for him. Because his birthday is in September, he is right at the cut off and can either be the very oldest or very youngest. I think that he would excel more as the oldest.
      And thank you so much for saying the potty thing is about hygiene; I think so too!
      Thank you thank you thank you so much for your kind and comforting words!!

  3. Hmmm..this is honestly a tough one. Do you think about another schooling choice at all? It seems that you and your husband provide a very close-knit & family oriented environment that reinforces his confidence and intellect. However, being the youngest in his class in a strict academic atmosphere may be just too much for him right now. Not to criticize your school choice at ALL but I just feel so bad that you had to hear all that stressful stuff from the teacher when clearly N is so bright!!
    Devon Riesenberg recently posted..Winter in ParadiseMy Profile

    • Thank you! I really thought about changing schools; I wondered if maybe this is the wrong fit for him. The thing is, he LOVED this school last year, and now I’ve become invested here since I’m doing the Parent Council Chair thing, but I do wonder is maybe this is too much for him?
      My sister made a point that “changing schools just because of one not-perfect conference seems a little dramatic.” Haha, she’s probably right, but the thought of changing schools directly came to my mind, too!
      I requested a meeting with the school director, and she kind of undermined the teachers, saying a lot of what they said sounds developmental. He had such a good experience there last year, and he is so established with this group of friends that I also worry that changing his peer group would be troubling for him.
      The director explained that next year for pre-K there are two classes, a younger pre-K and an older pre-K and they will be divided based on age. At the end of the year all of the pre-K students will be able to go to Kindergarten, or you could choose to move up to the older pre-K. So even if he doesn’t go on to Kindergarten, he would still be “moving up,” not repeating a year. I think that may be the right choice for him.
      After a lot of thinking about it, I think that changing schools entirely may be too disruptive, but I do hope that the teachers next year are a better fit just as the teachers the first year were. I also think we might be on the “hold back” track for him, because as intelligent as he is for his age, being in a group with students almost a year older than him is hard. I think he would thrive as the oldest instead of the youngest. I like that in this case his “hold back” would just be for pre-K, and he still would feel as though he’s moving up, there would be no repeat of a year.
      Man, this parenting stuff is tough. Thank you so much for all of your support. I am seriously so glad to have you in my life!!
      Julia recently posted..The Unintentional Week OffMy Profile

  4. Elizabeth Kane says:

    Virtual hug, Julia!

    This sounds tough, but I don’t want you to think that finding balance in your life as a mom and a woman is at odds with raising him the best way possible. Kids have emotions and struggles all their own, as do we – they’re just louder about it sometimes! Growing isn’t always easy and I think kids really remind us adults that.

    • I love hugs!

      Yes, you have nailed it perfectly; “growing isn’t always easy and I think kids really remind us adults that.”

      This parenting gig is so hard! After a lot of reflection on it, I really think that my little guy is exactly where he should be for his age, he is just very young in comparison to the rest of his class. I think that this shift in balance for him and I is probably just one in many different phases of parenting and life we will both go through, and we will just have to keep re-adjusting to figure it all out.

      Thank you so much for your support!!
      Julia recently posted..The Unintentional Week OffMy Profile

  5. Oh Julia, I just read both posts and my heart is with yours.

    *The important thing is, though, that your heart is in the completely right place.

    Galit Breen recently posted..This is Childhood: FOURMy Profile

  6. Awww!! That seems to be kinda tough for a three year old. Noah and my Bryson are the exact same age and I still wipe his bottom… Seems like they are expecting a lot more out of a three year old than you’d think. Bryson goes to a similar pre school but he only goes 2days per week and I feel that he has learned so much, but I have decided to keep him in 3 year olds next year as well. i don’t want him to be the youngest of his class when he starts school. I believe now the cut off is August 31st and he wont be 4 until Sept 1st. Keep up the good work Mama!!! They are boys and BOYS will be BOYS!!

    • Thank you so much, your insight is so helpful. I am struggling with the decision right now of what to do with preschool for next year. The cut off in GA is September 1st but here in VA it’s September 30th. So next year here he’d be going to full day preschool and I’m just not sure he’s ready! I’m leaning towards what you are thinking about having him be the oldest instead of the youngest. We will probably be moving back to GA in a few years, so it’d make sense to keep him on the GA time line. I’m so glad they have the same birthdays so I can talk to someone about this!

  7. Absolutely!! You know your child better than anyone as you mentioned so trust your decision!! I know i feel the same way sometimes!!


  1. […] this year he is having kind of an off year in preschool, which made me wonder if his current preschool is still the right choice. He will also be old […]