Recently, I was at Target with my son when he mentioned he could use some new underwear. We headed to the underwear section and quickly I realized we were about to embark on an awkward conversation. We would have to discuss if he wants boxers or briefs and why I, his mom, would suggest the combo option, boxer briefs. It was there I realized I was a mom in the middle! Telling him why his testicles would be happier and healthier in a pair of boxer briefs and the importance of making sure your junk is dried before putting on your newly purchased boxer briefs to avoid humidity and jock itch is something a mom in the middle has to do. The thing is, I’m not actually prepared to be a mom in the middle.
My kids are in those tween and teen years and gone are the days of babies, toddlers, oohs, ahhs, cute and cuddly. Being a mom in this phase changes drastically. However, it seems this new phase of motherhood is something I am going to be doing on my own. Finding information about this season of life seems to be thin to say the least. Get on the internet and you will find lots of information about your baby, your toddler and even your child through third grade. What to know how to have a conversation about testicles and how they fit into boxer briefs? Good luck!
We assume young moms need the support and then somewhere along the journey get real quiet to all the moms in the middle. It was great to know ahead of time that when diapering a baby boy, to cover his penis so you don’t get pee in your eye, but now I need tips on telling him how to deal with his penis. For real, because when my son came into the family room one afternoon and asked what an erection was and I had to sit and explain it to him while we avoided eye contact and instead stared at a logo of Netflix on the television. It took all my muster not to panic, sound terrified, or run screaming from the room. It would have been nice to have been forewarned about that conversation.
Moms in the middle need just as much support but it’s an uncomfortable phase for everyone so the information stops getting to us. I’m not finished raising my children. We have a lot of years together and it doesn’t seem to be getting easier. In fact, I might dare say it’s getting harder. I’ve seen clickbait articles on “5 tricks to stop your toddler meltdown” but I don’t see “5 tricks to help your teen’s existential crisis”. His crisis is legit and he’s sucking me in. According to him, the world is the worst. Someone help ME before I only dress in black, quote Nietzsche and discuss popular YouTube gamers.
We’ve reached the age where the boys can watch themselves for a few hours while I have a meeting and manage a comedy theater. They can also bathe themselves and go potty like big boys. However, it’s not as if my kids turn 12 and then voila, parenting accomplished. Moms with tweens and teens are just as tired, frazzled, and much in need of support (no really, please send help, I don’t want to talk about sex positions with anyone let alone my child). I’m no longer being asked “why” or told “no” from a toddler but instead being asked, “is it normal that all this hair is growing under my arms and down my pants”? I want to know if it’s okay that my son has stretch marks because he is growing so fast and any advice on how to vet his friends is much appreciated. Thing is, I don’t find that information out on social media or the internet. I see links on activities you can do with your toddler at the playground but not on how to help your 14 years old navigate his playground… you know what I mean!
As a mom, I will always worry about my children. Even when they are grown. What’s worse is that as a mom to kids who are no longer small, cute, and cuddly, I am becoming invisible. Go to a bookstore or a mall and just watch. people are always stopping and making small talk with the moms with the kids in the strollers. They hold doors open for them, and the moms can talk to the other moms because they have a common starting point. When I go to the mall with three tween and teen boys in tow, no one holds doors open, no one stops me and says, great job at getting them to this point of their lives. Instead, we are avoided. To be fair, I’m 5’2 and surrounded by boys taller than me by several inches so I’m sure we look more like a team assembled to hack the mall’s internet security instead of a mom who desperately needs new pants for her kids because they all look as if they are wearing khaki capris. It would be nice though to hear “great job mom!” from a stranger every now and then.
And mom friends? Well, those have become non-existent. When the kids were young, I could find a cool mom who had a cool kid and we could feel connected. These days, if my kids don’t like the other kids, it doesn’t matter how cool the mom is, that relationship is unsustainable. That means, I need to have friends that are just for me but that requires me to go find friends but guess what? I’m still just as, if not more, busy that I was when I was raising a toddler.
Sustaining friendships is the last thing I want to do but if I don’t do it, then hello loneliness. My kids are too old for companies, blogs, and social media to pay attention to them and apparently that goes for me too. While every now and again I will see things on why being over 40 is amazing, most of what I’m bombarded with is things to absolutely NOT to wear, drink, eat, do, or breathe after 40.
I do a lot outside of just being a mom. I write, run a comedy theater, travel, and teach. Yet it feels like my voice is becoming less relevant as time marches forward. When I’m in of need support the most, it’s not available. I know I’m not the only mom in the middle. Moms in the middle deserve more than silence and crickets. Just because I am a mom in the middle doesn’t mean I’m going to go silently into irrelevance. I will be loud, proud, and terrified and hope that other moms in the middle do the same.
So here we are perusing all the underwear options in our local Target. Me rambling about humidity and how mold can grow in dark and humid places. Trying to make it more of a science lesson than a discussion about his testicles staying calm, cool, and collected in a certain type of underwear. Finally, I just say, “Let’s get the boxer briefs” and my son shrugging his shoulders responds, “whatever, as long as they are black”. Just like that, we’ve made a decision and I’m fairly certain this is how most of my conversations are going to go now that I’m a mom in the middle!