My daughter’s door was closed to me, a barrier that couldn’t possibly have been thicker than the wall that was already wedged between us. It had not been a good morning. Words had been spoken and spilled to the floor without any way to sweep them all up. We were afraid to say anything more should it add to the already hurtful things that lay between us. So we parted ways and avoided each other at all costs. And that door remained closed for the better part of the day.
Raising a 13 year old has proven to be a really hard job. It’s wonderful, don’t get me wrong. But it’s challenging as well. Here’s this brilliant person you’ve raised since the beginning. And over time they are changing because that’s what happens when kids grow up. Soon, they are thrust into the in-between world of Middle School, surrounded by other in-betweeners who are all growing at different rates and reasons. Put them together, and suddenly a world of Awkwardness is created.
And the biggest disease caught from this rampant pool of hormonal teenage-dom is Embarrassment.
There is no cure for Embarrassment except for Time. And even that could take about 10 or 15 years before being tackled. In some cases it never fully goes away, leading to painful years of self-consciousness that stem from these earlier days of being a Middle School teen. In the meantime, this Embarrassment causes mean and rude things to fall out of their mouths, keeps them from hugging you goodbye as they leave for school, causes their eyes to repeatedly roll towards the ceiling, and prevents them from admitting they’re even related to you or the rest of the family – as if they just popped up one day out of the ground. Most of the time they won’t even speak real words, but have resorted to grunting and nodding, or worse – not speaking at all in their efforts to will you out of the room and out of their lives forever.
But inside, there are a multitude of feelings and emotions that, at times, feel bigger than their body. This is why they lock themselves in their room with notebooks of paper to write down their deepest, darkest desires and feelings. And they keep it all secret from us because we couldn’t possibly understand what they are going through. Sure, we parents have been there before. Remember how awful Middle School was? No, you don’t. And that’s because it was SO awful that you’ve likely blocked most of those memories out to distance yourself from a truly horrendous period of time. And I think many of us can agree that we NEVER want to go through those days again.
But my daughter, and other 13-year-olds just like her, is going through this horrendous period of time NOW. There are the kids who make fun of every blemish they see, the ones who spread vicious rumors about the picked-on kid of the week, the fair-weather friends, the feelings of never belonging, the Awkwardness, the Embarrassment…. When we drop our kids off at Middle School, we are abandoning them to the pack of teenage wolves that chew them up and spit them out (and repeat) for the duration of the school day. And if they don’t attempt to blend in, they become the one who stands out – and the perfect victim. You see, to a Middle School student, deflection becomes key in keeping all negative attention at bay. What better way to avoid being picked on than to heap negative attention on someone else?
So if a Middle Schooler didn’t already feel awkward enough, they are fighting a daily battle to not be noticed and to be cool all at the same time. Therefore, everything around them they once accepted as a part of their life – their family, their home, the car they’re driven in, and more – becomes a potential for mortification. Thus, they become rude, thoughtless, and fight about the stupidest things. They hold on to their opinion out of sheer will – not just because they believe they’re right, but because they believe YOU’RE WRONG.
My daughter and I eventually did make up, just like usual. But this time, “I’m sorry” just seemed like such a forced thing to say. Instead, she silently apologized by quietly working alongside me as we cleaned up the kitchen. And I silently apologized with careful glances and small smiles. And when it was clear that the worst was over, I reached over and put my arms around her in a hug.
“I love you,” I whispered to her out of anyone else’s earshot.
“I love you too, Mom,” she told me, allowing herself to be hugged.
I’m told that it gets worse before it gets better. Let’s hope I survive this. Let’s hope she does too.
What was the worst part about Middle School for you? And how’s your kid doing with Middle School now?
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