There’s a common myth when you have toddlers that, although it’s hard now, when they grow up into middle schoolers, it will be even harder. There’s this idea that as soon as your angelic little terrors hit puberty, they’ll somehow make your life a living nightmare. And high schoolers? Abandon hope now.
Middle school has been a daunting milestone waiting for me on the horizon ever since my first daughter was born. Helpful strangers have passed along the advice to enjoy them while they’re little because eventually I won’t be able to stand them. Even friends have warmly offered warnings that brought about fear and trembling.
So for the past 12 years, I’ve dreaded these middle school days. I’ve fretted over and prayed about them.
And finally, we've entered them.
And yet, now that I’m firmly entrenched in middle school hormones, newly-found and carefully-offered freedom and a daughter that is too-quickly growing up into a responsible, independent human, I’m finding that it’s not terrible at all. To be honest, I’m loving every second of this new stage of life.
Maybe it’s my unique perspective on parenting — since I have toddlers and pre-teens at the same time. I mean, my toddler is a 2-year-old tiny terror. He regularly destroys my house. He throws temper tantrums that I can’t diffuse. He is nearly impossible to wrangle in public. My middle schooler on the other hand? She actively helps keep the house in order via daily chores, loves to help with dinner and chases the toddler when he tries to run away. And her sense of humor is seriously hilarious.
Toddlers and teens definitely have their own set of difficulties, but the tween years aren’t nearly as scary as I expected them to be. Instead of butting heads with rebellious, disrespectful know-it-alls, I’m getting to know funny, maturing, sometimes-insecure and often-emotional young adults who are lovely to spend time with.
It’s been one of my greatest joys to find that I love who my children are turning into; that I enjoy their personalities and look forward to spending time with them. I spent so much time bracing myself for the great battle of middle school that I am pleasantly surprised to love this new stage of life.
We can finally enjoy the same things. Gone are the days of mindlessly watching cartoons or never-ending timeouts. Instead, we’ve bonded over mutual interests and the excitement of doing things we love together.
Stella, my soon-to-be 12-year-old, had strep over Thanksgiving, so we cuddled up on the couch and spent her sick day binging cheesy Netflix rom-coms. She’s gotten really into Harry Potter as well, and I have enjoyed every second of watching her experience it for the first time. My favorite texts are from her and her surprising and hilarious way of expressing herself in emojis.
There are definitely still difficulties and struggles. She’s still a young girl trying to figure out who she is in this great big world. Friend drama has gotten more intense. Boys have come into the picture. Our deep conversations are getting harder and harder. But I’ll take the hard stuff because it comes with so much good stuff.
And the best part? I’m done fearing the future. Instead, I’m enjoying this stage we’re in now and looking forward to what’s next — teenage years and all.
Rachel Higginson is a married mom to five kids. She is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has received a Utopia Award for Best Contemporary Romance and Penned Con Award for Best Novella Series. She lives in Omaha.