She rolled her eyes at me as I asked if she was forgetting something and pointed to her school-issued iPad lying on the couch as she was headed out the door. Just yesterday she threw a fit because I “ask her too many questions” about making sure she has her things in the morning. And huffed and puffed when I wouldn’t let her walk/go to the park alone to meet a friend (of equal age) and shoot hoops.
I get it. She’s 12. It’s the age where kids want to feel grown up. Want to spread their wings. Think parents don’t know anything… and it’s all perfectly normal. But it’s still not fun. My husband has to frequently remind me that I have to act my age, not hers, when I’m in the middle of our confrontations. Because it’s SO easy to just react in kind and let things escalate.
When my kids were young and I owned a photography studio, I had a client once tell me that her grown “baby” son was her “heartbeat.” It was the perfect way to describe how I felt about my youngest. Not that I don’t love my other children, of course… but she completed our family. That precious stinker with red curls kept my heart beating. And still does. If anything were to ever happen to her I think my heart might just stop. And yet, she’s the one my heart grieves the most over as of late.
Middle school is rough. It’s a time where kids aren’t comfortable in their own skin. This age takes a LOT of patience and a LOT of love. It takes loving on them when you’re not happy with how they’re acting. It’s a hard stage for parents – but if you think about it, it’s even harder on them.
I was in the adult class at Family Camp last year, and the teacher said something that struck me. Every family has that one child – the one that needs a little more love than the others. Not that all children don’t need love. But there’s alway one. The one that wants to sit right on top of you when you’re tired. The one who needs a little extra attention. That’s my youngest.
It’s easy for me to get caught in the trap of thinking my kids don’t need me as much anymore. After all, they’re pretty self-sufficient. They can feed themselves, clothe themselves and do their own laundry. Two out of three of them don’t need me to wake them up any more. They mostly take care of all their “stuff”. So I sometimes enjoy the “take it easy” mentality and relish in the fact that I can sleep through the night and don’t have to wipe bottoms or feed them immediately when they cry. However, if I really think about it, my kids need me just as much now than they ever did. These years – the years where they are tweens, teens, and young adults — these are the impressionable years. These are the years when young people decide who they are. What their values are. These are the MOST important years for me to be on my guard. To not be a slacker or feel like I deserve to be lazy. To realize they are watching my every move and are going to imitate it — whether I’m proud of that or not. These are the years I need to show love and mercy more than ever. To keep a cool head. To not react like a 12 year old.
So, even though this post is pretty much directed at myself as a reminder, if you too have tweens and teens, let this be an encouragement to you. I’m pretty sure no empty nester looks back on these years and wishes they’d had 30 more minutes to themselves. Even giving your child 30 minutes of your undivided attention when you want to be doing something else — it’s worth it. You’re investing in your child. In your relationship. You’re telling them they are more important than the internet or your book. Don’t get me wrong — I do believe it’s both important and healthy to set boundaries. Don’t let your child walk all over you. But don’t give up on parenting just yet! And if you ever need an ear. I’m here. We’re in this together. It takes a village!