Have you ever painted pottery to go into a kiln? I used to take my children to a local pottery place, and the dull colors we painted on looked nothing like they became after that time in the kiln. It was always so fun to see the shiny final product that was transformed from where it started.
It’s Too Soon to Panic
Parents of middle schoolers, let me confidently assure you. What you see in the middle school years is nothing like the person he or she will become. It’s too soon to panic, folks. Those few adolescent years is full of angst. It’s a season of parenting that’s messy, and honestly — it’s hard.
A friend once told me that that two hardest seasons in life are your own middle school years and then your children’s. Can I get an amen? She told me this during my third and last child’s eighth grade year, and it nearly brought me to tears to feel so understood.
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Lean In to the Awkwardness
If you are parenting middle schoolers, do yourself a favor amid your exhaustion and confusion. Think back to your middle school self. For me, this involved three school transitions in three years, including a cross country move. From one minute to the next, I couldn’t decide if I was a kid or a grown-up.
As my body began to morph, I felt so uncomfortable in my own skin, fueling the anger and frustration that plagued me. Isn’t awkward the best descriptor of middle schoolers? It can’t be avoided. Just lean into the bumpy ride, my friend.
Buckle In for the Unexpected
The summer after seventh grade, my oldest son when to church youth camp and came home with the usual hoarse voice from the yelling and lack of sleep.
Y’all — his voice came back, but it was a voice I’d never heard.
I would hear him talking downstairs and with a panic, I’d think, “WHAT grown man has snuck into our house?” My son left for a few days and came home with this deep and unrecognizable voice.
The middle school years are full of the unexpected. Aside from physical changes, this includes friendships fading and crazy conversations with middle school teachers, who should all be nominated for sainthood. Bless, these middle school years are best handled with both a sense of humor and an ability to expect the unexpected.
This Too Shall Pass
My Granny used to say about any hard situation: This too shall pass. Those four words should be oft repeated in the angsty, eye rolling, choppy waters of the middle school years.
Though you may hardly recognize the human who used to be your snuggly and sweet child, remind yourself to keep parenting with connection, along with both correction and discipline. Make time together doing what your child enjoys. Have family dinners. Show up for their events. Host their friends and drive the carpools. Keep your pantry full and absolutely figure out how to increase your grocery budget.
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Dream of the Future
Though these middle schools are difficult, listen to me. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, your middle schooler is going to emerge from the awkward and hard and become this amazing young adult. Like a beautiful piece of pottery, fired in the kiln, the finished product will be unrecognizable from where you started.
Around age 14, we reached an incredible turning point with all three of our children. The awkward and messy began to fade, and the kids seemed to grow a confidence, like a beautiful day of sunshine after a long night of stormy winds and torrential rain.
It’s awe inspiring. With each of my children, there came a time when I wished I could go back to my middle-school-mom-self and offer reassurance. Since I can’t time travel, I’ll give you this comfort about the middle school years: Hang on through the ride and dream of your child’s future self. Remember your own awkward pre-teen years and compare who you were then with who you are now.
You’ll Laugh One Day
Middle school years included heartbreaking cuts from team sports, mean girls, hateful group texts, tricky classroom environments, and seismic shifts in all areas of relationships – on top of the physical changes and hormones. But, for the most part, the things that felt painful become fodder for dinner talk legend and deep laughter.
Those things that we can’t laugh about have instead become the things we count as a win because we survived and learned through the process. I see you, middle school parents, and what doesn’t kill you will indeed make you all stronger.