Loving your kids looks different in every season of life. My darlings graduated sixth and eighth grade last month. These middle years are challenging, but so far, sort of fun.

Flexibility is key. As with physical flexibility, the more you stretch, the more flexible you become. So the way I stretch myself is to choose not to sweat the small stuff. My goal is to say “yes” whenever I can, picking my battles very carefully. So when my daughter asked if friends could come over, I say yes. When she asks if they can stay for dinner, I say yes (even tho it means taking the leftovers and adding pasta). When she changes plans and says they are now going to the pool and asks for a sandwich for dinner and ride home later, I say yes. I hadn’t even started boiling water for dinner anyway.

Now it’s early evening. Outside my window, my son and the neighbor kids are playing with the sprinkler, squirting each other. Apparently they thought it would be too much trouble to change into bathing suits, so they are in their clothes.

Other than telling my son to pull up his shorts so that less of his boxers are exposed, I don’t comment. Does it matter? Is it a moral issue? If not, I don’t turn it into an issue.

Parenting middle-schoolers is a chance, if you let it, to increase your patience and flexibility. An exercise, really, in spiritual formation.