I remember being in middle school. I wish I didn’t. Literally, the worst years of my life. I was new to my school, had braces, a dorky haircut, and wore no makeup like the other girls did.
And even though I was wearing an Esprit sweater and matching sweater skirt that I thought I was so cool, the actually cool girls with boobs and makeup and Reebok high tops did not think I was cool. And I was bullied. To tears everyday. And it sucked, big time. Now, thirty-something years later I am literally still scarred by it. To this day, I hate middle school and I hate middle schoolers.
And now, here I am with not one, but two of my very own, you guessed it, middle schoolers. I’m in middle school hell all over again.
I have good kids; I really do, and it goes without saying, I love them more than life. But here’s the truth of the matter: my middle schoolers can be real assholes. Like, alot of the time. They’re ass holes to me, they can be ass holes to their friends, they’re even ass holes to their teachers sometimes. The thing of it is, they don’t even know what major ass holes they’re being.
And there are reasons for this.
They are in the middle place and it’s uncomfortable
There’s a reason it’s’ called middle school. They truly are in the middle. They are no longer in the safety of their sweet little elementary school, where all the teachers knew their names, and they always knew which table they would sit at during lunch. They had been in this elementary utopia for their entire educational lives! And now, they are thrown into a great big middle school of unfamiliar territory. And the social playing field suddenly leveled out. The kids that were “the populars” are no longer. Middle schoolers are fighting for a social hierarchy, wondering where they fit.
And on top of all that, they are straddling this point in time of really needing you but desperately wanting to pull away and test their independence. Subsequently, one day it’ll be all, ass hole, the next day it’ll be all, I love you mommy. And then maybe even a few minutes after they love you, they have suddenly decided you are the biggest idiot ass-hat that ever walked the face of the earth.
It’s ok. Let them hate you for a minute. It’ll last as long as their last snap chat. They’ll be back. Because they still need you. Let them pull away and explore their independence, but always keep a close eye on their safety.
They have no freaking idea who they are
When one of my middle schoolers was just 7 and in first grade, she had her whole life doped out: get a tennis scholarship to Stanford, major in business and own a cupcake shop, have two kids, lots of dogs and live on some land where it’s warm with a huge vegetable garden. Impressive. She is now 14, and the only thing she’s certain of is that her boobs aren’t big enough, everyone has better clothes than she does, and her mom never let’s her do what she wants.
Middle schoolers are trying to figure out who they are and how they like their eggs. They have a hard time thinking for themselves. That’s why they mimic each others’ hair, clothes, talk. And that’s why their choice of friends at this stage is uber important.
So let them make some of their own decisions. Let them try new things and discover who they are. Let go a little. But always know who they’re with and what they’re doing.
They’re weird, and they kind of know it.
They are. Their bodies are changing in ways that simply gross them out. And it grosses us out too. Their feet and armpits stink. They have zits the size of Mount Vesuvius. Their voices are changing. They are growing hair in unspeakable places, and girls begin bleeding from their vaginas, I mean, what the faaaahhhhhk??? They’re gangly and growing and awkward and clumsy and they talk like complete and utter idiots.They think dumb is cool and mean is funny. They speak in code. They’re weird. And they know it too. And their weirdness makes them even more awkward.
Let them be weird. Have some compassion for their weirdness. They’ll grow out of it. And right now it’s harder on them then it is on you.
They are hormonal
Three words: Moody. Moody. Moody. Like, in need of medication moody. Like, need time with a therapist, moody. Like, I’d pour you a drink if it were appropriate moody. They can’t help it. Their changing bodies are in control and they simply can’t help it. They are up, down and in-between like the ever-changing tides of the ocean.
Don’t turn your back on the ocean. Be there for them when they are in a good mood, and be there for them when they are in a bad mood…just maybe from the next room.
They are obsessed with technology
Eventually I’ll tackle this one in a separate blog post, but I haven’t had the energy yet because the enormity of it almost makes it seem impossible. We have given our middle schoolers phones and tablets and ipads, under the guise of keeping in touch with them. Our kids are hunched over their devices, unaware of the world around them. And when it’s time to look up, they’re hardly able to communicate. These little devices have pulled them into a world of secrets and selfies and disappearing texts and inappropriate images and hiding behind texted words, and they’re not capable of handling it. It has given them an endless world of cyber assholiness and we, as parents, are clueless. If you think you are on top of it because you check their texts (they erase them), or check their Instagram (they’ve moved on from Instagram, Irene) or make them ask before they download an app (it’s downloaded way before they’ve asked), then you are sorely mistaken. And this technology makes them a different middle schooler than we ever were. With different attitudes and different problems, different social challenges and different safety issues.
The only thing we can do is control time on technology, try to stay current, and talk, talk, talk. Set the rules, teach them the dangers, and be consistent.
So let’s wrap this up. Middle schoolers are ass holes. And they have good reason to be. They’re not trying to be ass holes, they just are. I’m certainly no parenting guru; I’m trudging along like a ‘s three legged elephant just like you, but I do painfully remember being in middle school and just how much it sucked. So here’s my best advice: Just be there. Be there when they stink, be there when they’re mean, be there when you effing hate them. Listen when they talk, and talk to them when they are listening. Give them their space when they need it, but steal your moments with them, like in the car on the way to practice, or while they’re scarfing down their fast-food dinner. Let them make some of their own decisions; let go a little. But don’t drop the rope. Connect, talk, listen, care. And hang in there. They will grow out of it.
The truth of the matter is, they need you now more than ever. THESE are the formative years. Don’t let them go to waste.