Friday, November 16, 2012


I pretty much hated my Middle School years.  I was in a really conservative setting and knew I didn't fit in but not why or if I would eventually fit anywhere.  I knew I wanted to be "good" but it felt shallow and forced and unrealistic.  I wasn't ego-centric but instead saw very little joy in the world-- of course, none of this was articulated because I was in Middle School and an emotional mess, but I have to say, being a mom to a Middle School-er just might be worse.  Being moody and confused and insecure and lost is AWFUL but watching this "little" person you love going through all of these growing pains is much much harder (as my Aunt L would say, "and you thought potty training was a challenge").  

Before leaving on our marriage / conference / retreat this week, my pre-teen boy leaned over to give me a hug goodbye; the hug lingered because change is always hard for him, even when that change is spending the weekend with his beloved (and overly generous and adoring) grandparents who live in town.  As he walked away, the pants that fit him perfectly a couple of weeks ago were more like capris.  He had a little limp because of Osgood Schlatters in his left knee and his poor sweet adorable face was covered in pimples that no facial cleanser / toner / spot treatment could control (at least without some black market connections). It is like all of the craziness of this stage of life is trying to force itself out any way that it can.

It is this outward mess that lends validity to the age specific war raging inside him... He is growing up and testing out manhood.  He is trapped in that essential purgatory between carefree childhood and responsible adulthood:  mood swings, insecurity mixed with ego, and all the rest.  All the rest depends on where his mind is and how bad the physical, mental, emotional growing pains are in that moment:  
  • At one moment he can do it all himself, dismissing every statement with "I KNOW!" and moments later pleas for help.
  • He goes from being unengaged on the field to scoring 3 goals and 2 assists in a platinum level soccer game that ends 6 - 6.
  • He gets an F on the mid-chapter honors math test (which actually wasn't very hard - I think he could have gotten a B in 3rd grade) to an A 97% on the final chapter test.  
  • He makes new friends and is a really cool / funny kid, and then says things that are mostly true but entirely hurtful. 
  • From being annoyed by his sister (and me) to helping her study for a Social Studies test for hours (as a side note, she was really disappointed with social studies as she thought they would at least be studying in groups!  But there is nothing social about it!)
  • He doesn't feel like stretching, loses his homework, doesn't try his hardest, is surprised when someone doesn't like him, and then feels awful when the inevitable natural consequences come forth... 
It is more than frustrating as a parent to merely watch this chaos wage within (and out) of him -- and then he has to navigate all of the madness without even the luxury of self-medication (in my case, a glass of red wine everyday at 4pm).  He hasn't learned to balance himself with all the changes in the height of his body and depth of his mind and gravity of his emotions.  He is just learning the tricks that can make this life maneuverable.  I can tell him my tricks; the things that I've learned from experience and from decades of mistakes:
  • I can tell him about how I write EVERYTHING down because my memory is so bad that I am "smoked" if I don't.  
  • Get advice from everyone, on everything, and then find the best way.
  • Save relationships by filtering what is said (most of the time)-- is it true? is it good? is it useful? 
  • That it is all in how you ask, not what you ask.  Being grateful, sincere, and kind will garner far better results than being abrasive, rude, forceful, indifferent, or entitled.
  • Being generous actually gets you more than being selfish.  It just does.  So be generous, even if it is just to be selfish.
    • Making other people happy will actually make you happy
    • Eating junk food will make you feel (and look) junky
    • Being active will give more energy than being lazy (or drinking caffeine)
  • I can teach how to be organized and that I'm not just doing this to be OCD or because I'm neurotic (which I am) but because being clean and organized is the way I function best, and you will too.
  • Be proactive, disciplined, and do the work before it gets even harder, like right away.  Just like waiting to wash the dishes doesn't make them go away, it just makes you have to scrub the cemented gunk.
But my tricks won't necessarily be his tricks; besides, he is in middle school and doesn't really want to listen to me (I'm not taking it personally, I only half listened to my parents until I had my own kids)... maybe his coping mechanisms will be like my DH (to find and capture a wife while young so that together there can be balance).  Or maybe he will find his place in sports, where he can be competitive and aggressive in a safe and controlled environment.  Or maybe peace will be in something totally different, like reading or yoga or music or art or laughter or solitude or prayer. 

All I know is that merely watching him physically, mentally, and emotionally grow is exhausting.  I want to shield him from all of these growing pains.  I want to organize for him.  I want to transfer all of my experience over to him so that he doesn't need to relearn it for himself but that isn't the way that it works.  I just need to be his safe place.  I need to help him when I can and should but let him learn on his own.  I need to let him find his own way even though I'm pretty sure I know exactly what will make him the happiest.

I hate this part of parenting. I know it will pass but right now I need to find the strength to be consistent when he is moody, to be patient when he is frustrated, to be kind when he is feeling mean, to be joyful in the worst of situations, to hold him accountable when he feels lazy, to encourage when he has lost hope, but most of all, I need to show him Love-- and maybe throw in some laughter, a big back-cracking hug, ice cream, a couple of board games... and play Misery, by Maroon 5, really loudly while we drive-- because it is his favorite band and singing along with it at the top of our lungs makes us all ironically happy.

I feel like I need make a quick disclaimer-- there are WONDERFUL times.  Lots of times, my DH and I look at each other and just smile because we can't believe that this is our life and our kiddo. We just love him; he is such a great kid and so funny (obviously, with parents like us, how could he not be?!).  I love watching him learn to think on his own.  I love the new found independence and responsibility and character.  I love watching him make good decisions on his own and recognizing when he is being irrational, but there are rough times, especially lately... and I guess I just wanted to vent and be honest and maybe someone, someday, will breathe a sigh of relief because they aren't alone.

--and all of this up and down would be a lot easier if I was just a little more laid back!

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