Mama said there’d be days like this. Seriously. She warned me. Anyone who knows my mother, knows she doesn’t sugar coat the facts of life. It’s possible that I inherited that trait.

The sex talk she gave me when I was 14 involved a cherry and a fork. When I was 19 and two weeks overdue with my first child, I told her I was worried about childbirth. She laughed out loud and told me it was too late to go back now, and that I’d never be the same. After our second baby, she warned me not to have more kids than they’d have parents in a busy parking lot. When our second born was slow to talk, she told me to be patient. She warned that someday I wouldn’t be able to shut her up. Our son used to smother me with hugs and kisses. I told him I needed space and some room to breathe. I remember her saying, “Your brother used to be sweet. He was just like that before he wasn’t.”

Mama said there’d be days like this. It’s 1pm and I think I’m done with this particular day. I just made my middle school son lay down for the first nap he’s had in years. We were arguing circles around each other and getting nowhere. I closed my eyes hard, took a deep breath, and pointed to his room. I don’t know if the silence terrified him or he’s as exhausted as I am, but with a couple stomps and one door slam, he surrendered.

I don’t think we talk enough about this middle ground. Sure, infants and toddlers are tough. The sleep deprivation and neediness will swallow you whole if you don’t find balance. I know parenting teenagers will be full of its own challenges, too. Some of my favorite bloggers are moms wading through the trenches of the special Hell that raising teenagers can be. But what about this middle ground? Why is no one addressing the middle ground? Parenting in the middle ground is hard, but I’d much rather be on this side of it than go through it again myself.

The middle ground is where growth spurts kill energy levels and suddenly you’re a preteen zombie. It’s where no one will baby you, but no one will treat you like an adult. People don’t tip toe around you anymore, but they also won’t tell you anything. You start to form your own thoughts and opinions about the world around you, but it feels like no one takes you seriously. All you can think about is getting older and who you want to be, but your mom still touches your freckles with a tear in her eye for who you used to be. Hormones are raging, making your mind and body totally weird at a time when you just want to fit in. Your parents want you to think for yourself, but when you argue with them, you’re disrespectful. They want you to make friends, but not with the wrong crowd. Your social circle has gone from a handful of classmates to a complicated spider web made of tight rope you can’t seem to balance on. You’re still entertained for hours by a stick that looks like a sword or a new set of colored pencils, but your peers are talking about vaping and sex. Nothing makes sense anymore and it feels like no one gets it.

I need to remember that. I need to ink it on my heart for those moments when he’s pushing and pulling and testing the limits. In this season of life when his world no longer revolves around me, I have to remember that it’s still my job to guide him through it, because I do get it.

I get it, little man. We’ll get through it.