With hope, I look at my first born, with whom I made insurmountable mistakes the first time around. By the grace of God, she made it, in spite of me, and we are on the other side. And I couldn’t hope for a girl with a more beautiful heart. So I can step back, smile and breathe a little, and get ready for the next round.
Junior High. Gotta love it. My children are roughly all three years apart, so that means I will always have one leaving junior high, and another one entering. Yippee! We all remember the horrors of junior high gym class, girl drama, and perhaps that awkward first kiss, or maybe learning about the things we didn’t know much about, but didn’t want anyone to know our ignorance (like in 7th grade when I learned Roddie Christner french kissed a girl. What in the world was French kissing?)
As a mother, these early adolescent years are always a mystery and leave me scratching my head at times. I am entering this phase for the third time. My oldest son it turning 16 on Saturday, and his younger brother, 12 1/2, is just entering the phase.
“Mom, I know.” (Emphasis on the KNOW part),
“Why does he get to stay up that late? I didn’t get to when I was that age.”
In other words, leave me alone, Mom, it’s not cool for you to tell me stuff or for me to listen, I still need you, but I can’t let you know that.
This is from the boy who stopped letting me kiss him at bedtime when he was 5, so when I get to, it’s a treat. He’s also the one who will still let you read to him, loves it when you play a game with him, and needs a little TLC when he is hurt.
I can’t say I’m ready to go through another round of middle school. It’s a scary time for mom and child. For them, they are trying to break away, be independent, yet everything around them is changing so fast. It’s the identity thing, and there are caution signs flashing everywhere for good reason. While kids this age are pushing parents away faster than we are ready for, they still want us and need us.
I’ve seen many an insecure teen as a teacher form their identity around “the wrong crowd” or dangerous behavior because the pull for identity – any identity – is so great. This is where the dance as a parent can be so tiring – having one hand still on their life while letting go. You never know just quite where that line is.
A friend once told me when I was going through this period with my first born that while they are pushing you away, they still need you. That was a new thought to me the first time through. “You mean when she says she hates me she still needs me? What’s up with that?” I thought.
Hind sight is better than fore-site. I am so thankful to have made it on the other side of junior high with two of my four children. There is hope, because we’ve had some rough times. But as I gear up for another one, I am a little wiser, more hopeful, and still as unprepared because each child is different, and knowing what each one needs at each stage is a surmountable job. It requires a lot of studying, knowing their “bents”, and loving them when they, or you, don’t feel very lovable.
One of the greatest pieces of parenting advice I ever heard was from Chuck Swindoll. I love Chuck. He is very real, honest, and doesn’t give lofty answers for real problems. The advice he gives is to love your children equally, but let them feel like they are the most special child to you. In other words, when you have them alone, tell them the things that make them unique. I have tried to put this into practice, acknowledging their differences while not putting one child above another – celebrating their uniqueness, and training them according to their particular “bent.”
There’s a book written about this, called “I Love You the Purplest.” I love this book, and read to my 12 year old the other day. It demonstrates the Chuck principle – a mama who loves each of her boys individually and also the most. I think the message hit home, but he responded with “Mom……!”
This time around, though, I know he heard. I know he still needs to hear this, and I’m glad I know that this time. But I am sure I will hear the “oh, mom….” Tone many more times yet.
(But, I’m not sure I feel any more equipped. That’s what keeps me on my knees).
That is why I marvel at this things called parenthood. The older I get, the less I know, except that my children are His, and He parents far better than I do. That is Tested and Proved, and I stand in awe of Him.