Thoughts From the Car: The ‘Middle Years’ of Parenting

middle yearsI’m in the “middle years” of parenting. Somehow, I got here without even blinking. I went very quickly from two in diapers, to two in preschool, to two in elementary school, and now with one clinging to elementary school and one who just started middle school.

All of those long nights with a newborn and a toddler prepared me for this, right? Ha! In those days, I’d yearn for the time that I would be here — right here in this very spot, yet now sometimes I find myself yearning for those younger years, the simpler years, that I somehow blinked away.

These thoughts are mostly short-lived, coming to me while I sit in the car waiting for my oldest at soccer practice. Most days, I spend a lot of time in my car. Two separate schools, two drop-offs, two pick-ups. Then dance drop-off and pick-up, club soccer, school soccer, and the list goes on and on. My mind tends to wander a lot. While I miss the simpler, younger days of motherhood and all of us being together every day, I beam with pride watching them do the things they love to do.

Living that dance life!

While I don’t love sitting endless hours in my car, I know this, too, is short-lived. There will be a day when I don’t have to drop anyone off at the fields because he will be driving with friends. I’m not always going to have to do her hair and makeup because she will do it on her own.

So, while our togetherness isn’t the same as it once was, sometimes it’s even better. We make the most of our quality time, whereas before it was just a given. We chat, we get the latest about what’s going on in school. We talk about the most random, hilarious things. They have and understand humor, and it’s so fun watching them turn into big kids. We enjoy each other so much more now. Our time is so much more precious. It’s such a privilege to start guiding them on their path to being young adults.

middle years
Another day, another soccer game!

I’m not naive. I know this all will change and evolve into something else, too, once they are in the thick of teenagerhood. They may not enjoy our car chats anymore, and they may not want to share things with us the way they do right now. They may just want to sit in silence and process their thoughts internally. Never having a teenager before, I honestly have no idea what to expect — except to expect nothing at all. We aren’t there yet, but we are close. So, for now, I’ll be at drop-off and pick-up. I’ll pack the ball bag for the tournament weekend, and I’ll do all the stage makeup, lashes, and hair for competition. I’ll drive to all the practice and dress rehearsals. I’ll come to the dance studio and help sew the costumes, and I’ll wait.

Because one day, there won’t be anyone to wait around for, and I’m hanging on for dear life. While I miss our younger years as parents, I wouldn’t trade this stage for the world. I’d tell you not to blink (like all the well-meaning ladies in the grocery store), but I’m sure you already have and you are already on to the next stages. I love these middle years of parenting, and I love seeing how much we have all grown together as a family. I’m sure I’ll be equally as sad to see them go. So, here I am, sitting in my car, watching my boy from afar. And I’ll be here watching until he no longer wants me to.

Johanna Kwartler
Born and raised in St. Augustine, Johanna moved to Jacksonville to attend UNF and never left! Now this former elementary school teacher turned Stay at Home Mom to Hudson and Callie, and wife of 13 years to Matt, enjoys life at the beach. Johanna enjoys being room mom and volunteering at the kid’s school as PTA President. She also in an avid runner, and loves working out at The Gym Jax!


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