It’s weird how quickly things change in those years between elementary and middle school, in the years you drop the single-digits and ascend into your teens.
Parents will vouch for it; our teacher tells us stories of parents who would come up to her and incredulously ask, “Where is my beautiful Jennifer, and what monster has she been replaced with?”
When I started middle school, I felt a subtle shift in the way my world had been organized; it was more a shifting of constellations than a shifting of entire orbits, but I felt myself struggling to realign myself in the wake of the change. The girl who had been my best friend last year would no longer make eye contact, and the girl who had the best birthday parties had conveniently forgotten to slip me an invitation.
The things about the teen years is that they’re tough.
Middle school is tough and navigating the treacherous waters of middle school life can be exhausting. There are changes going on in our life, we’re hormonal bundles of dynamite prepared to explode at the slightest touch. And I think the major mistake parents make at this age is that they let their children go.
I’m not saying that parents ought to react to their kids’ increasing demands for independence with even stricter curfews and bans — that, right there, is just spelling out a recipe for disaster. But parents should understand that despite how moody, rebellious, or problematic their kid is being, it’s still their kid.
Jennifer hasn’t become a monster, she’s just being a normal teen.
Often, parents will wash their hands of their children and this “Do what you want, I couldn’t care less” attitude is harmful. This behavior just adds to the self-esteem issues kids struggle with at that age. When I was a teen, I was prickly and defensive (actually, that part hasn’t changed too much). I’m sure my mother had a hard time of handling me and disciplining me, but she did. She would scold me, lecture me, advise me and help me, and I learned to trust that she would make things better again when I couldn’t.
My teen years were when my mother became one of my best friends.
I could hate her for not letting me go to the sleepover that every girl in 7th grade would be going to, or for making me taking off a skimpy dress my friends gushed looked perfect on me. I got lectured and scolded, and many of our conversations ended with me slamming my door and sobbing about the unfairness of life and how no one understood me. It was stifling sometimes, having my mother being this overprotective warden looming over me, and I felt like that was just another problem I had to contend with along with everyone else.
But then there were days when we had our mother-daughter shopping trips, when my mom would make me pancakes for breakfast because she knew I had an important presentation at school. There were the days when I would cry silently in my room after a phone call — some days, she would come in and give the sort of Hallmark-greeting-card advice that only rings true from a mother’s mouth, while on other days she would just stay silent but bring out the tub of ice cream after dinner and make sundaes with me.
So yes, I stayed a prickly teen, but time passed and I learned to love and trust my mother in a way that I still can’t trust most people.
She let me know that she always had my best interests at heart, and I regret every slammed door now, but I’m glad it played out that way — I’m glad my mother cared enough about me to let her wings gently sweep me through these tumultuous years, and I’m glad I found in her a best friend for life.