Practicing with Children

An Invitation for Parents of Middle Schoolers

amelie-locker–by Jill Clingan

When my daughter was a newborn, I felt lonely, anxious, and exhausted. I had read parenting book after parenting book, but the actual feeding and diapering and holding of a newborn, her cries, her hunger, and her needs left me feeling, many times, tired and alone. I felt a desperate need for someone to understand my exhaustion and my anxiety. I longed to tell someone my fears of breaking her or of somehow ruining her for life, and for that someone to look me in the eyes and say, “Me, too.”

So I found support. And honestly, it wasn’t that hard to find. We began attending a church with several young families, and I overcame my reticent, introverted nature to join a mom’s group. We read and discussed various parenting books, but what I remember most about that group is that there, sitting on my friend Mindi’s living room floor, I found my people: moms who adored their babies with a love fierce and powerful but who also felt exhausted and overwhelmed; moms who could say, “Me too.”

Then there were the preschool and elementary years, and while I made many mistakes and sometimes felt overwhelmed and exhausted, it wasn’t the same bone-tired feeling I had when my daughter was a baby.

Then last year we hit middle school, and while my daughter is a good kid—she gets good grades and has good friends—something was just…different. I recognized a very similar feeling that I had felt in those newborn years: I felt lonely, anxious, and exhausted. I felt a desperate need for someone to understand that exhaustion and anxiety. I longed to tell someone my fears of breaking her or of somehow ruining her for life, and for that someone to look me in the eyes and say, “Me too.”

But there aren’t parenting groups for those of us with older kids. I am sure there are churches out there that offer support groups for moms and dads of middle- and high-schoolers, but I have yet to see one. I have never overheard a group of moms in a coffee shop honestly talking about their fears of parenting a teenager. And quite frankly, I cannot read more than one chapter into a parenting-your- teenager book without feeling rising panic.

Thankfully, though, Practicing Families has created a closed Facebook group for those of us who are buried deep and struggling in these middle school years. You can follow the link here and click the “Join” button. We would love for you to join us on this parenting journey. We would love to look you in the eye and say, “Me too.” Welcome.

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