I knew it was coming. My daughter couldn’t wait. She began counting down the days until middle school began almost before her fifth grade year was done. She couldn’t wait for a locker, new teachers, new activities, and this looming state of independence that she felt sure would catapult her into a new realm of maturity and understanding of the world at large.
I, on the other hand, have not been nearly as ready to unravel the apron strings. In the weeks leading up to the first day of school, I peppered other, wiser middle schools moms with questions, hoping to glean pearls of wisdom that I could add to my own mothering toolbox. The common threads in all the responses I got were, “It’s a tough time. A tough age. Just get them through it. Pray hard!”
We’re three weeks into sixth grade, and the reality for both me and my daughter has just begun to sink in. No matter how much advice you receive, no matter how many questions you ask, you can’t really prepare yourself for the emotional storms until you’re in the thick of them with your child.
Case in point: I had my first middle school mothering moment several days ago. It started off as an afternoon just like any other, until my daughter realized she had lost something of value at school that had been loaned to her by a teacher. After looking high and low at the house, I calmly set her down and explained that she was about to learn a hard but necessary lesson on delivering an apology. I told her that she would need to make things right with her teacher. That it would be hard, but ultimately would help prepare her for future sticky situations when admissions of guilt would be necessary, even cathartic. Her lower lip quivered and tears rolled down her cheeks while she asked, “Why does this always happen to me?” And then of course came, “I hate middle school!”
I hugged her hard. We prayed through it, asking God for comfort and courage. I told her that these types of experiences are part of growing up – part of that independence she thinks she so desperately needs. After tucking her in, I ventured to Facebook to ask other, wiser parents how they have handled middle school melodrama. How, I asked, can we best love, trust, and protect our kids during these formative years?
Here are a few words of wisdom:
- “We pray and keep God in our conversations.”
- “Keep them off social media.”
- “Don’t get on their rollercoaster when they’re venting about friendships going south. Just listen. They may be BFFs again by Friday!”
- “Know their friends and their friends’ parents.”
- “Sixth grade is usually spent adjusting to the hectic middle school schedule, but most seventh grade teachers will attest that seventh grade is when they shift their focus to all things social and sometimes grades suffer. While this is a normal part of their development, it is our job as parents to help them find a healthy balance. Our expectations for them should remain high, but they should always know our love is unconditional.”
- “If it’s really important, challenge the kids to handle it themselves. Have them go to the teacher first. Have them talk to the friend before you talk to the parent. They need to start taking responsibility for their issues as much as possible.”
- “Don’t push your kids to be social. I learned that my kids knew what they were comfortable with and what they wanted to avoid. Just because they weren’t invited to birthday parties, or chose not to go, didn’t mean there was a problem. They were setting their own social boundaries.”
I’ll never stop asking these middle school mothering mentors for advice. They have so much wisdom to share with mamas like me who are just setting out on this journey. I encourage you to also reach out to your circle of friends for their expertise. And remember, know that this too shall pass.