On long or short car rides as a family, Husband and I often roll our eyes and joke that we are chaperones on the longest middle school field trip ever. Because with kids ages 13 down to 5, the humor level never rises above 5th grade. And we’ll be here for the next decade – trapped in a vehicle with poop jokes and missing deodorant.
My kids are a miracle. I’m aware of it. After two very hard years of infertility and miscarriage before God blessed us with (a whole lotta) children, I am keenly aware and grateful. I talk to friends struggling with infertility now, or who are pregnant in a high risk situation, and I remember the fear and trembling that I felt. I cuddle up to my baby (who is five but he still cuddles don’t judge) and sniff his head – I am so grateful.
But I realized recently, I forget to wonder and marvel at who they are now. Oh, sure, I’m grateful for every year, I cherish the moments, all the things we’re supposed to do. But these days are hard days of parenting. It’s emotionally exhausting, loving a child so much and realizing I can’t do anything to change the heart within. To just patiently love and pray and wait for Jesus to do the work. So I think I’ve lost sight of the fact that those big, meaty thirteen-year-old paws are just as much a miracle as the tiny, dimpled fingers I kissed a long time ago. They are growing, maturing, and the humans they are becoming are just as much a gift to me as the babies they once were.
The 10 year old doesn’t have cheeks for days any more, she’s got earrings and a new confidence in her step. And if I’m not careful, I’ll keep missing those cheeks of yore and forget to marvel at the miracle she is at 10. She’s finding her rhythm, finding the things that she loves to do, conquering dyslexia, and learning to listen to the Holy Spirit. I see her falling in love with Jesus as her friend. And I should stop and wonder at it, rather than missing the girl that was or chomping at the bit to meet the woman that will be.
My 11 year old embraces his quirks, has a story to tell for everything, keeps up with his big brothers like a champ, and is learning to be comfortable in his own skin. We all know his growth spurt is eminent, so we watch him like we watch the almost-blooming rosebuds in my husband’s garden – certain it’ll happen while we’ve blinked or gone inside. But he’s a marvel right now, just as he is, all 60 pounds soaking wet of him.
I think it’s too tempting in this particular parenting season – the official Middle of It – to turn and wish for the old days, when your biggest problem was nap time and they all still smelled good most of the time. It wasn’t easier then, but it seems like it now. So we miss their cheeks and dimples and pigtails and forget to appreciate the miracle of the Awkward Middle. The big front teeth, the unkempt hair, the oversized feet, the jeans that are never long enough, and the spots on the face. Growing up is painful. And these people we made are Surviving It. Isn’t that amazing???
I may not survive parenting them through it – but they’re gonna make it on through just fine.
And aren’t we all in the middle of our own awkward stage? Jesus is still teaching me, still molding, still waiting for my teeth to grow into my face. (Spiritually speaking, I mean. My physical teeth fit fine, thank you.) And it’s a miracle! My Christian walk feels like the tween years all the time – nothing fits right, nothing comes out of my mouth right, I’m just not completely cooked yet – not on this side of heaven.
So God keeps parenting. He perseveres despite my mood swings, my two steps forward followed by four steps back. He keeps loving, keeps urging me on, setting high expectations and reminding me of grace when I fail. He disciplines me and provides for me and shows me patience beyond patience. He’s the perfect Middle School Parent.
What better picture of this than my own, miraculous, Middle of It All kids. Those tiny little upper lip hairs and mood swings are a Wonder. Their little bodies still work (thank you, Jesus), I can practically hear them growing if my close my eyes and listen. And as we lope into full on teenager years and my weeping and praying gets amped up even more, I don’t want to forget that they weren’t just a miracle in the past decade, they are a living, breathing miracle right in front of me. A work in progress. Just like me.