No matter what age your kids are, you will always feel like it’s the hardest stage of parenting. When they’re still babies, you’re devoid of energy and lack the will to get out of bed. But have to because there is a baby crying. When they’re toddlers, you lose a little weight running around after them, but sometimes it’s just not worth the losing a few pounds if your body aches from head to toe. Don’t even get me started when they become teenagers. But when was the most challenging for me?

If I look back on it, I would say that the most challenging stage of parenting for me was when my kids were in middle school. Here are the reasons why:

Their curiosity poses more danger than they were babies

When they were kids, you just had to pick them up and get them away from the electric socket. When my teenagers were 12, I had no control over whatever experiment they were doing who knows where. And the most difficult part of it all was that they were learning to keep secrets. They were so good at it that it was difficult to know whether I caught all of their transgressions or if I’ll have to hear it from the best man or maid of honor at their weddings.

The worst part about the curiosity at that age was that their peers were in on it. I don’t blame the other kids, nor do I blame my kids or myself. It’s just life. I once caught my daughter, the eldest of my kids, smelling like cigarette smoke. I sat her down and asked her about it. She lied. I grounded her until she was ready to tell me the truth. She knew I was fair when it came to punishments and that I would keep my word. I also knew if she was lying, which she didn’t when she admitted that her friend stole a pack of cigarettes from her dad and they tried it out. She hated it, but I’m scared to think that one day she might start a habit out of it.

They felt like they were adults

The most surprising thing about middle school was that my kids and I started fighting. Not arguing, but fighting. We would yell at each other and sometimes I would forget what the reason was that I was so hurt that I fought with my child.

One example that I can remember was when I told my son I wasn’t getting him a hoverboard. This was when they first came out and there were videos of them exploding. I explained my position, but my son argued as if he was a lawyer, citing figures, probabilities, and the fact that I watch too many Facebook videos. The worst was when he said I didn’t know anything. I’m a mother. How could I not to know? Of course, I won the battle, but at a cost, I didn’t like. I felt like my son disrespected me and in a way, he did. For that, I grounded him. There were more instances like that, but as he grew older, the less they occurred.

It was the first time that they were almost never around

I was so used to them being kids and always coming home when it was time to. Now, they come home for dinner and leave again. I have rules for a school night and they follow them, but it doesn’t change the fact that my kids aren’t there all day and up until curfew. Sometimes it can be lonely, but it’s difficult when it happens for the first time at that age. They had study groups. They hung out with friends. They slept over more often. It was surreal because I was learning what it meant to be the mother of two tweens. Luckily for me, that stage passed and soon, I got used to my kids being out. I found activities for myself. And I still kept my relationship with them whenever they were at home.