This is a shout out to all the mothers of middle schoolers. You know who you are, and can fondly recall the adventures your once tiny infant has taken you on. Late night feedings, cuddles, sickness, and caring for another left you depleted most of those early years. A lack of showers, time with friends, and time to be alone were all a part of it, yet you yearn for those days again. You think of how your babies transformed into toddlers, little examples of the best of humanity mixed with tantrums, and teething and potty training.
Then you sent them off to preschool and felt those first pangs of separation, not loving the new found time, instead, counting down the few hours until you could pick them up again. Elementary school left you both proud and heartsick as you saw them grow and learn, fostering new friendships and navigating life’s complex issues like which clubs to join, whose birthday party was coming up and planning sleepovers with friends. And now here you are, attending 5th grade graduations and preparing your kids for first dances and you see the glimpses of what life will be like for your middle schooler, and you, as your child takes on more of life’s offerings with you in the background, worrying about every little second of it.
The beauty of having tweens is the pains of loss and time you feel as they age is tempered by the fact that these little creatures, not quite teens and certainly not babies, are ornery. It’s actually a blessing in disguise because if they were cute and in your lap, or still hung on every word you said, it would be much harder to let them enter the gates of middle school. As life would have it, the middle school years may end up being some of the most difficult in their lives. Sure, they will be great and also a time of making new friends, discovering their likes and dislikes and carving out a path for their seemingly endless high school years. But they will also be difficult where status and clout will suddenly become important and where their companions, with their own raging hormones and insecurities, will be unkind from time to time. They may experience their first kiss, first shaming, first realizations that what once made them popular, now makes them weird. It’s going to be a crazy ride and their newfound frustrations, emotions and self-awareness will help them deal with things in their own individual ways, making them realize that indeed, there is a way to get through the tough times.
For moms of middle schoolers, this time is a reminder that life is fleeting and the years we have with our children in our homes can be compared to a millisecond in a day, it goes that fast. As I savor these moments of my son’s journey into young manhood and spend as much time as I can talking to him, looking at his face, wondering how I missed his baby fat cheeks being replaced by angular cheekbones and the dreaded blemishes, I am ready to send him on to his next phase of life. And just as I long for the old days and can revel in my nostalgia, I also take comfort in the fact that my sweet baby boy Is still in there, hugging the stuffing out of me every morning with sunglass crunching and hair-do destructing bear hugs. He has passed the short stage of not wanting his friends to see us hug and in fact makes quite the spectacle of himself returning to the van sometimes three or four times just to say “bye mom, love you,” and to sneak in for another quick embrace. And during long talks, his crackling voice will fade and in its place the return of a little boy’s words, telling me all of his plans for the future, sounding more like an excited Kindergartner than a tween. I’m hopeful and prayerful that he makes good decisions, chooses friends wisely and remembers that even though I’m waiting in the wings now and not holding his hand through it all, I am still there for him and always will be. Until high school anyhow, I hear full blown teenagers are a nightmare.
Photos: A Friend Reminded Me by Erin on Flickr, commercial use allowed
Monday Morning by Julie Morgan Scott on Flickr, commercial use allowed