Creative Child

The Transition to Life with Big Kids

by Rebecca Eanes

I can’t believe it’s here. The teenage years have descended upon me. Somehow it took forever and happened all at once. Parenthood does strange things to time that way. I distinctly remember thinking when both of my boys were still in diapers that life will be so easy in that faraway time of teenagehood. They will sleep through the night. I won’t have to lay with them until they doze off. They will be able to make themselves a snack. Maybe they won’t be so cranky (ha)! Most of that is true, and not to be a Debbie Downer, but it’s still hard.

I’ve noticed something peculiar about this stage, though. When we have small children, moms talk to each other about how we’re feeling. We discuss all of the love, joy, exhaustion, and worry. There’s a sort of camaraderie among moms of little kids. When we have big kids, especially middle schoolers, moms seem to talk about what we’re doing. They tell you how busy they are with this sport and that event, and no one says a peep about all of the crazy swirling emotions that comes with parenting kids this age.

This is the age when the end comes into sight, and I have to tell you, it’s pretty scary. I’m no longer the center of my kids’ universe. They’re pulling away little by little, and it’s a painful process. This hit me like a ton of bricks out of the blue one day, and I remember sobbing about how I’d never be so loved again. It was a raw, deep, and beating kind of ache. I know my kids still love me, but things change between us as they grow up, and I know that soon, another will steal their hearts away and I’ll be lucky to get so much as a phone call.

It’s all perfectly normal, but that doesn’t make it less painful, and yet it feels weird to talk about it. Who wants to seem like a clingy mom who can’t let go of her precious snowflake? So, instead of revealing my aching heart, I just say things to other parents like, “Yep, we have this tonight and that tomorrow. Always busy!” Then, we go our separate ways, our hearts still aching over the loss of those years when their little hands wrapped around our fingers and they curled up in our laps, and our anxiety for their futures is at an all-time high. So, if you’re feeling alone in this today, I just want you to know that you aren’t.

In a study published in Developmental Psychology, psychologists Suniya Luthar and Lucia Ciciolla surveyed more than 2200 mothers with children ranging in age from infancy to early adulthood. They found that middle school was the most challenging time for mothers. They noted a consistent increase in maternal distress that peaks when children are in middle school. Luthar said, “Many mothers aren’t aware that the big separation from offspring, the one that really hurts, doesn’t occur when children leave the nest, but when they psychologically pull away from their mothers. This is a time of psychological metamorphosis for both mother and child.”

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