If you need me, I’ll be over here in those “middle” parenting years.
You know, that stage the internet rarely mentions in an otherwise influx of content about raising our kids.
What do I mean?
Well, I can tell you I’m no longer a brand new mom navigating the brand new addition to my identity. I’m not worried about sleep training or teething or nursing and correct diaper sizes.
But, I’m not in the thick of the toddler years, either. When I tell people my kids’ ages, I don’t get that wow, you have your hands full look like I did when I had three under the age of four. My biggest worry is no longer how I’ll get everyone to nap at the same time, or if I’ll ever have a moment to myself for the rest of eternity.
I’m also not quite to the teen years. I’m not yet worrying about driver’s licenses or dating or phone privileges or college applications.
And I’m not an empty nester who is both celebrating this new phase of life while also having moments of wishing it all didn’t go so fast.
With kids ages 10, 7, and 6—I’m right here in the middle.
And I wonder why this stage isn’t talked about more. Because like we were new to everything when we became parents, this is an equally new phase that can feel just as intimidating and overwhelming.
Because in this stage we are navigating new, big-world questions from kids who are way more aware of their surroundings than they were before. No longer can we just turn the TV off and shield them from the heavy stuff. Now, after they tell us about that one thing they heard at school, we try to perfect the pause—the one in which the little voices in our minds scramble to find the balance of honesty and age appropriateness in our answer.
In this stage, our kids are getting into the competitive side of sports. It’s no longer cheering on little Johnny or Susie swinging the bat 10 times at the ball on the tee before finally connecting and running the wrong way on the bases. It’s life-lesson parenting and loving your competitive son through a big loss in a tournament in which he was involved in the losing play.
In this stage, you’re a landing place for a tearful kid who comes home from school after a tough day on the playground.
You’re the lead in the conversation on the couch about bullying, about standing up for yourself and others, and about loving and being yourself no matter what anyone else says.
In this stage, you marinate in the joy that they’ve achieved some of that independence you dreamed about in that nursery rocking chair while also feeling the sting of them not needing you in the same way they used to.
In this stage, you wonder if you’re setting the foundation that will help them when their worlds get bigger and heavier and the experiences are newer and maybe more confusing. You wonder if you answered that big-world question the right way or if you could have done better. You wonder if that after-school conversation on the couch was meaningful or if you blew a chance to instill a big lesson. You wonder if your inability to be present in a chaotic world will affect their likelihood of coming to you when they really need you. You wonder if you soaked in their littleness enough and if you’re ready to parent them through the modern-day teen years.
You wonder if you’re doing the middle right . . .
. . . just like you did when you were in the newborn and toddler years, and just like you will when you are a parent of teens, and one who eventually hears more silence in the nest.
Because no matter what stage of parenting we’re in, we’re in the thick of it.
We’re navigating new challenges with every season while also soaking in the gifts that come along with each of them.
We’re watching our kids grow and evolve, and while they do, we’re trying to do the same. We’re trying to do our best.
So, if you need me, friends, I’ll be over here in the middle.
Looking back on the beginning that helped me get here. And doing everything I can to be present here so it will prepare me for there.
Because just like I am in every stage . . .
I’m growing and learning. Hoping and praying. Trying and failing. Trying and succeeding, too.
And doing my best to love them (and me) every step of the way, and believing that is enough.