Remember when it was easy to post photos of your adorable baby, or messy toddler on Facebook? Remember how you could publicly bemoan sleepless nights, and kids pooping in the bathtub? How your fridge was full of magnets and fingerpaintings that were impossible to tell what they depicted? You could talk to your friends during playgroups, and get support during those naughty tantrums? Remember how you could Instagram just about any part of the chaos and it was still cute?
It's not that easy anymore.
It's hard to snap a photo that your middle schooler will approve of you posting on Facebook. You don't really want to share about your son's behavior when you take away the Xbox. You can't really talk about the grades - good or bad - because your kid will be mad that you overshared. Your sleepless nights are caused by worry, not teething. You wonder about the influence of peers, not playgroups. Toys are now cars and electronic games.
There isn't a lot of cute in the chaos. Instead, there is acne and braces and attitudes.
It can be a lonely time.
Oh, yes. There is a lot of joy, of course. You wouldn't trade your kids for anything. But you just want to know that everything is going to be all right. That they'll turn out ok. That they'll grow up and make good decisions and all your hopes and dreams for them will come true.
And where are the other moms? Lots of them are back to work, juggling just like you. Most of them are in the car, driving their kids to soccer practice and track meets. All of them a lot more quiet these days. They are pulled in many directions.
I've noticed an conspicuous absence of mom-bloggers with older kids. A whole let less sharing and swapping of kid stories. Almost no teenage birthday party ideas on Pinterest. Mom conferences that seem to focus on young families.
The online world just sort of goes quiet for the moms of pre-teens, teenagers and young adults. Except for the scary stories of kids and families gone wrong. It's not real comforting.
I've been thinking about you, mama.
I want you to know that you aren't alone. These years with your older kids can be your best, even if you can't post photos of them on Facebook very often, and nobody says "OMG So PRESH" anymore.
I want you to know a few things.
I want you to know that nearly every middle schooler I have ever known was obnoxious...but all of them have grown into very nice young people.
I want you to know that your kid's grades won't ultimately determine how successful he will be in life.
Your daughter's obsession with her hair will quietly end in college.
Your diligence in training them in good manners, though it looks absolutely hopeless now, will delight the person they will marry.
Your prayers for them will not go unanswered. You will not let God rest...and He will not let you down.
Braces come off, complexions clear, bodies grow. They become less awkward and more engaging.
You will lose your mind a thousand times...and find it, most of the time.
You will wish you could fast forward to graduation, and then cry your heart out when the day comes.
You hurt when they fail, you mourn over broken hearts, you wish they would show some gumption. You cry when they don't get that prom date and you jump for joy when they make the basketball team.
And so much of it....you just can't talk about.
Because you suddenly realize that these kids are people.
People with feelings and emotions. And you can't go around blogging about their mean math teacher or their failed attempt at choir auditions. These are things that are too precious, too priceless, too soul-baring, too hard to share. They need you to be their safe place. They need you to keep their secrets. They need you to pick up pimple concealer at CVS and not breathe a word to anyone. They are so easily embarrassed and you must do your part to help them get through it.
And you know what? You will help them get through it. You will give them pep talks and scoldings and reminders and notes.
You will give them confidence, and wings. It just takes awhile.
And you, dear mom of older kids, will grow your own wings.
In the middle of all this chaos, you will learn that you are made of amazing stuff. You have a backbone made of steel. You can make great vats of chili like its nobody's business. You can whip up brownies for tomorrow's homeroom party.
You will discover that you can handle more than you ever thought you could. You will find that there is strength in quiet, that Facebook survives just fine without your photos, and that you have something incredible to offer this world.
YOU, mama, are raising kids that will take on life, and all it holds. They will become doctors and lawyers and nurses and teachers and mothers and fathers. They will remember how you loved them, how you helped them, how you sacrificed to give them a good start.
And they will thank you.
Today, I hope you'll breathe in hopefulness and joy in your parenting. Let go of fear and anxiousness and simply enjoy that adolescent. Laugh at a fart joke. Try a new hairstyle with your daughter. Drive through Sonic for a 1/2 price slush.
Remember that these kids are your gifts, and you are theirs. There is no one who can do this better than you can, because you know them better than anyone, and you love them harder and stronger and deeper than anyone else.
Oh, and one last thing:
Everything's going to be all right. You're going to be OK. Your kids are going to turn out great.
That's what I want to say to you today.
An Older Mom Who's Been There - Rachel Anne
PS Here is my follow-up post, Mama, There is Hope.
*Rachel Anne Ridge is an artist and writer in Texas. She has three grown children (who survived mismatched sock problems), and is Nana to four littles. Her book, Flash, the Homeless Donkey Who Taught Me About Life, Faith and Second Chanceswas named a Best Summer 2015 Book by Publishers Weekly, and she now has a children's book, Flash the Donkey Makes New Friends.*
Are you a mom of older kids? Tell us how it's going in the comments!