When I was in Middle School, they called it Junior High. It seemed fitting, as we all were set up to mimic the behavior of the high school kids we (literally) looked up to. Although we were changing classes seven times a day and finally had a combination locker, most of the kids in sixth grade hadn’t hit puberty yet and the kids that had were considered tween royalty.
I was a gangly tween with a mousy brown perm who once wore Gap overalls to school, earning me the nickname Farmer Ted for approximately 2.5 years. I remember thinking nothing in my life would ever be as harsh as the time I spent in middle school, and I was steadfast in that belief until my son started middle school himself.
Beyond the daunting change in my child’s academic expectations; hours of homework, projects, and dealing with the personalities of many different teachers, I wasn’t prepared for the shock that my little boy had become a big tweenager overnight. I didn’t expect him to smell so bad (all the time). I didn’t know that I’d stop being the only girl that mattered in his life so soon. And I never imagined the day would come where he considered me as the enemy rather than his most trusted adversary. But, here we are.
Middle school is awkward. It’s embarrassing and gut-wrenching, because suddenly all the things that didn’t matter as a little kid, like saying the wrong thing and wearing the wrong thing, are now everything. Teenage kids can be brutal little terrorists, and God forbid you’re on the wrong side of the wrong group. And that’s even before you factor in Instagram and Snapchat which have basically become a slam book etched in stone for the entire world to see.
I wasn’t ready for my baby to become the kid who cared more about fitting in than being himself. Now my days are full with policing his grades in real time, stalking my child on social media (when he hasn’t lost his phone privileges), shuttling him to his excessive soccer practices and extracurricular events, and trying to find some in between time to help him realize that not only am I on his team, I’m also the coach and his biggest cheerleader.
Gone are the days of worrying about his growth rate, eating habits, and speech. The worries are heavier now. I’m weighed down with the thoughts about whether he’s making friends (and hopefully the right friends). I’m suffocated with thoughts about whether or not we can trust him to do the right things and to trust him to call on us when he’s in over his head.
We make sure to remind him every day that we love him no matter what and will always be here for him if he needs us. Now, I just pray that he believes it.