When the “Sweet Spot” of Parenting Ends: 6 Tips for Surviving Your Kids’ Milestones

For a couple of years I've enjoyed the so-called "sweet spot" of parenting: 

  • each child between the age of 14 and 5, still at home 
  • they are all mostly self-sufficient (no more diapers!) and helpful around the house
  • their unique personalities are emerging and developing
  • they like to talk to me!
  • they get my jokes and even the youngest now (5) can instigate his own
  • the oldest was old, and responsible, enough to babysit so mom and dad could go out on occasional dates (!!)
  • Did I mention they were all still at home?

Because that is about to change. Sometimes change thrills me, and sometimes I want to punch it in the face. Like now. Next week, my oldest baby boy enters high school ON THE SAME DAY my youngest baby boy enters Kindergarten.

Hold me, Jesus.

I have joked with a few friends that they need to put a note on their calendar that day to pray for me. Most have given me the sympathy look and say, "Oh, your last one starting Kinder." To which I reply, "Eh, maybe. Been there, done that 3 other times. It’s the high school part that’s getting me."

Why? He’s still at home for at least four more years. This I know, but my mama’s eyes are far-sighted in more ways than one. This isn’t the end, but I can see the end from here, and it grieves me.

A mother's overreaction? Probably. After all, he's still got four full years of fun, exciting experiences in school and band and baseball and youth group. He will look back on these next few years as one of his most memorable, special times of life. He's going to mature from half-man to full-grown man, and unknowingly break a few hearts along the way ('cause he's such a sweethearted looker). 

Exactly my point.

Four years ago, my youngest was barely toddling, still eating from the high chair, safely sleeping in a crib. Today he's about to trot into a school building with a backpack on, and I'll be lucky if he waves Bye to me. I NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR MOPS!

Four years ago, his sister had just learned to read. Now she's wearing bras and almost in double digits. The other brother went from chubby-faced cutie to clever charmer—well, he's always been that. But you get the idea. I know how fast four years can go. (All you mamas with grown kids are nodding. I can see you. Yes, you told us so.)

I know I’m not alone, for every parent’s job is to raise’em up and move’em out. We all see the passing of time, marked ever so rudely by milestones like grade levels and birthdays. So how do we I survive the beginning of school this time around?

1.     Remember the end game.The goal of parenting is actually to let them go. Sounds crazy most days, and a welcome relief on others. But truly, I know in my head that seeing my children as grown, responsible, God-loving adults will give me profound joy. It’s getting my heart into the game that proves a challenge in moments like these.

2.     Pray. For you and me, the parents. For our kids’ spiritual growth, for their physical protection, for their future relationships, for their current challenges. I must remember to actively give them back to God on a daily basis. They belong to him anyway, right?

3.     Redeem the time. The best way to thumb my nose at the passage of time is to wring every moment out of it. Waste no opportunity. Say “who’s there” to every knock-knock joke, plop down for a chat if they even hint at wanting to talk, attend every sporting/music/club/school event I can possibly make, pray over them as they sleep (it’s not as creepy as it sounds), be that loud, obnoxious mom in the stands cheering over the rest of them, and as often as possible sit down at dinner as a family to hear them share about their day.

4.     Drink lots of coffee. Or eat chocolate. Or both. Amen?

5.     Be grateful. Being thankful for my hardheaded child makes it so much easier to appreciate his clever wit, sharp mind, and relational skills. Remembering to thank God for giving me these amazing humans to raise alongside my husband gives me a broader perspective, a big-picture view, of exactly what I’ve been called to do.

6.     Rest. Rest in God’s sovereignty. Memorize Proverbs 3:5-6, and rejoice in His plans.

While my “sweet spot” may have been short-lived, I have so much to look forward to. If I can view this new stage of life through God’s eyes, I may not need quite as much coffee. But maybe just a little extra next week. 

Kelley Mathews (Th.M., Dallas Theological Seminary) has written and edited for the Christian market for more than 20 years. Currently a writer for RightNow Media, she lives in North Texas with her husband and their four children. She has partnered with Sue Edwards to coauthor Mixed Ministry, Women’s Retreats, Leading Women Who Wound, Organic Ministry to Women, and 40 Questions about Women in Ministry. Find her books and blog at KelleyMathews.com.