Parenting Different Stages of Childhood

Open, shut them, open, shut them. I can hear her sing-song voice repeating the phrase from the kitchen. I peer around the corner and see the concentration in the folds of her forehead. The little fingers on her right hand are perfectly tucked into the holes of the pink-handled blunt-tipped scissors. A paper plate is in her left hand. She is cutting bits off the ends, while repeating the mantra I taught her days before. Open, shut them, open, shut them.

My instinct is to leap forward and make sure she isn’t going to cut herself, but I stop short. Instead, I observe. I observe and smile and remember how nearly 12 years before my oldest was doing the same thing. Learning to cut. Learning to control his hand. Learning to be independent.

I sit next to my three-year-old daughter – the youngest of four – and say, “You are doing such a great job cutting. What are you making?”

She beams and says, “A project. I’m a big girl now.”

“Yes, you’re growing up fast. I’m so proud of you,” I reply.

Weeks earlier I was sitting next to my 15-year-old son saying almost the same thing. Except he wasn’t learning to use scissors. He was at the Department of Motor Vehicles to take his learner’s permit test. He is learning to drive. Learning to be independent.

With each of these milestones, my stomach turns and my heart palpitates. This is what is left out of parenting manuals. The conflicting emotions that accompany not just the hard to manage times, but the happy proud times.

I am parenting different stages of childhood. Yet, in many ways nothing changes. You are always teaching. You are always guiding. Then you are forced to let go. To observe from a distance and realize that they are independent beacons of hope and light that are constantly in a state of change and growth.

Parenting different stages

My teenager and preschooler have very different needs, but they both need me. They need me to sit by their side and offer encouragement. They need me to notice when they master a stage. Or more importantly when they are struggling to get there. They need me to take the time to notice something as simple as cutting a paper plate for the first time. They need me to observe their light.

I worry that I will take these moments for granted. I’m human and with four children it’s easy to miss the small victories. But not this time. This time I heard and I saw. This time I noticed.

I hug my daughter and ask to help. She releases the plate and allows me to guide her hand. Together, we chant: open, shut them, open shut them.

Are you parenting in different stages? Are you finding one more difficult than another?


Nicole Dash is a writer, blogger and business owner who lives in the suburbs outside Washington, DC with her husband and four children. She started her career as a journalist and copy editor. She also managed public relations and corporate communications for a national franchise company, but in 2006 started a child care business. In 2012, she launched Tiny Steps Mommy, a lifestyle and parenting blog that quickly gained a following and connected her to an expansive group of women-owned businesses. In 2013, she started a digital marketing consulting business that focused on growing community in an authentic way. Through those connections she was inspired to open Play, Work or Dash, a coworking space that also offers onsite childcare up to three hours per day. It is where like-minded professionals pursue their business goals with the extra level of support parents desire; a place where you "bring your kids to work." She is an active member of the Washington, DC blogger community. She has been published on The Washington Post, Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Mamalode and Pop Sugar.




  1. I love this! And agree wholeheartedly – our children always need us, but in different ways based on their stage of life. It’s especially interesting when you have children who are further apart in age – my sons are 17 and 7 and my daughter is 11. I literally have a child in each school – elementary, middle, and high. And it’s sometimes challenging to switch gears and give them each what they need… and not treat the teenager like a 2nd grader (but I really would love to freeze him – I simply cannot believe he’s grown up this fast). Great post <3
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  2. Yes…My boys are 11 years apart…and they couldn’t be more different. I’m a bit further along in the process though, my youngest is 16 and less than a year away from his senior year. It’s interesting..having two only children.
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  3. Love this! My three daughters are not that far apart in age – 5 years from oldest to youngest – but they are still at different stages of maturity. I don’t really think one is more difficult than another, just different with each one because their personalities are so different.
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  4. I have a 3yo girl and a turning 10 boy, they are soooo different! But yes both still needs me, I think I will cry when the time comes that they wont need me anymore! Wait, what did I just say? 😀
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