The Middle School Moan

Written by: Brenda L. Yoder

Middle School Moans PictureJunior High. Gotta love it. You remember the junior high horrors – awkward showers in gym class, girl drama, and perhaps the much anticipated “first kiss.” My kids are three years apart in school, so I always have one leaving middle school while another enters {thrill}. I can’t get away from it. For moms, the middle school years are filled with the dreaded the middle school moan.

“Mom, I know.” (Emphasis on KNOW, complete with eye-roll),

“Why does he get to do that? I didn’t get to do that when I was that age.”

“Mom, you don’t need to tell me!”

“You don’t understand!”

In other words, “Leave me alone! It’s not cool to tell me stuff. I don’t need to listen.”

Navigating middle school is a scary time for mom and child. Kids are trying to break free, be independent, yet everything around them is quickly changing. They’re trying to find their identity. Hormones are raging. Caution signs flash everywhere for good reason. While they’re pushing you away faster than you want them to, they still need and want you.

As a teacher and counselor, I’ve seen many teens form their identity around unhealthy peer groups or engage in dangerous behavior because the struggle for identity is so great. Navigating your child through this time can be tiring – having one hand on them while also letting go. It’s a fine line, and sometimes you don’t know where the line is.

When my firstborn went through middle school, a friend told me even though Baby Girl was pushing me away, she still needed me. Who would have guessed that words of “I hate you” also meant “I need you.”

Middle School Moans Picture 2Hind sight is better than foresight. I’m glad we’ve made it through three out of four middle schoolers already. We’ve learned a lot the hard way. But I can’t vacation yet. Each child is different and knowing what each one needs at various developmental stages is a big job. It requires knowing a child’s “bents.” It requires patience and perseverance. It requires loving them when they are least lovable.

One of the greatest parenting tips I’ve received is to love your children equally, while letting them feel they are special and unique. When you have them alone, tell them things about themselves that make them different than their siblings. I’ve put this into practice with all of our kids, acknowledging their differences while celebrating their uniqueness. I let each of them know their special place of honor.

When the children were toddlers, I bought each of them a book that was unique to their place in the family. For my middle son, I bought him the book, “I Love You the Purplest” by Barbara Joosse. It’s about a mom who sees a competitive spirit between her boys. She explains to each son how she loves them as individuals for their unique characteristics. I read this story to one of my sons recently. While the message hit home, Junior responded with a middle schooler’s “Oh, Mom!”

In the eye roll moment, I knew he heard. He still needs to hear a tender message of being known. I know I’ll hear the “Oh-Mom-with-eye-roll-tone” many more times yet. But with each middle school moan, I’ll be on my knees, asking God for wisdom, guidance, and understanding.

With a little moaning and eye-rolling myself.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Prov. 22:6 (NIV)

Father, will you allow each mother reading this today to be filled with your grace and strength to know each of her children in their uniqueness? Will you give her patience and tenacity at the same time, helping her balance the delicate role of nurturing while allowing independence and identity in her children to be formed? And for the middle school moms, will you give them an extra measure of patience and understanding? Thank you for your grace. Amen.

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