Starting Middle School: Mom edition (the end of year one approaches)

There’s a chance I’m invisible. I’ve suspected it—like Officer Gloria Burgle in season three of Fargo, who can’t seem to trip an automatic door or make a hand dryer turn on in the restroom. I sometimes make comments that no one hears until someone else says them, leaving me to ask myself, “Am I even here? Didn’t I JUST say that?” Certainly with a teenager in the house, it can seem like that. I don’t actually mean to say that I feel unseen or unheard. I’m thinking about invisibility in multiple senses.

When Lydia first went to kindergarten, it struck me that for the first time, whole chunks of her life were unseen by me while she was there. I wished for invisibility as a superpower so I could spy on her at school. I still wish for it. Even though the goal is for her to eventually have her own life, the fact that she has one already can be disconcerting.

I underestimated the ways I would begin to feel invisible as my daughter got older. The ways that a well-placed “Mom, you wouldn’t understand” can make me simultaneously agree completely and also want to say, “Oh yeah? You wanna hear a couple stories?” As if the stories would reinforce myself, substantiate me, prove to her I am a real person who has been where she is. And then I say to myself, “Oh my God. I couldn’t tell her THAT story, could I? Should I? I probably shouldn’t. Maybe I should.”

I underestimated the ways my daughter herself would begin to disappear. When she walled herself off at the beginning of the year and would barely speak, it felt like misery. I wasn’t fully prepared for how much she would seem gone from us. She has been through periods of disappearing throughout the year but mostly she has reappeared.

I have to pull the ultimate party trick as the parent of a middle schooler: Be more visible than ever while making it seem like I’m invisible. Fade into the background while keeping an eye on everything. You can’t be invisible as the parent of a middle schooler, though; in fact, you have to be fully covered in a thick skin, or all that rejection and eye rolling is going to seem personal.

At her age, I know Lydia feels like all eyes are on her, like she’s somehow more visible than others, even though everyone else feels that way, too. I know there are plenty of times she wishes she were invisible when what she feels is like she’s on display.

Her being in middle school has made me think about a lot of things, remember a lot of things. To quote Bruce Springsteen in Glory Days, “…I hope when I get old I don’t sit around thinking about it but I probably will.” I don’t think it’s an accident that I can’t stop listening to 80s pop music (anytime Aaron and I start jamming to 80s music, we are nothing but uncool and cringe-worthy) and that over the summer I rewatched every 80s movie I had ever seen. Songs and scenes bringing on nostalgia like a smell. Something with enough substance that somewhere close to me I can feel both the good and the painful of those days. I’m back in the junior high cafeteria for my first dance, all nerves and insecurity. I’m in my room with my jam box and my Columbia House cassettes or my finger poised on “Record” so I could capture my favorite on Casey Kasem’s Top 40. I relive every sigh and swoon from those movies. As a young teen, I was hopelessly focused on the romance. The ecstasy of that Maverick and Charlie kiss in Top Gun. Daniel and Ali in Karate Kid. Blane and Andie in Pretty in Pink. Wanting that kiss for myself. With every crush, holding desperately to the idea of true love forever. With every crush, wishing for that kiss that would make me sure I wasn’t invisible, but seen. By a boy—at the time, the ultimate in being visible. What terrifies me as a parent is that I know that feeling of wanting so desperately to be seen that you make terrible choices.

Sometimes I sense in her the elements of rebellion mounting—insecurity, desiring the approval of others, comparison. Sense her gathering her supplies like the Jacobites readying themselves to beat the British (pardon my 18th century Scotland simile. I’m an Outlander super fan and have read all the books and recently binge watched all available seasons). Other times she wants nothing more than for ME to see her, watch YouTube with her, talk about her day, affirm over and over that I love her, that her hair looks great, her outfit just right. And, for a moment, no insult meant toward the Jacobites, I hope that any rebellion she’s plotting will fail as miserably as the Battle of Culloden. My problem is that I remember everything from being her age with perfect clarity and despite her thoughts to the contrary, I DO understand.

I understand to the point that it seems like an act of courage to send her to school every day. I can only trust in my invisible creator to love her more than I do. To get her through her own stuff. To help her find her way as she makes herself visible in this world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starting Middle School: Mom edition (the end of year one approaches)

Starting Middle School: Social Media Edition

I’m sorry for the lack of grace that this post is going to exhibit. I’ll calm down eventually, but right now I’m mad. That said, I welcome any comments that will point out things I’m not thinking of and will correct me if I’m misinformed. Earlier today I confirmed my suspicion (through our monitoring software) that Lydia had set up an Instagram account against our explicit wishes. I am, of course, upset at the deception.  It also stresses me out that this is even a thing (I’m no Luddite, but can’t we just, like, pass some fancily folded notes and call it a day?). And, as much as I try (within reason) not to judge any parent on their decisions, because… parenting… if you have let your child have a social media account before age 13 (the age I believe most social media platforms “require” for an account), I’m mad at you, I think you’re part of the problem, and, yes, I’m judging the hell out of you right now. You’ve made it that much harder for the apparently small number of us who don’t think their child needs social media by age TWELVE and who think that maybe it’s better if we don’t teach our kid that it’s ok to LIE to get around the system. Lydia’s thoughts on why she set up the account (said through tears as she fled the room): ”You have no idea how much I hate school! I just felt left out!” NO CHILD SHOULD FEEL LEFT OUT BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE A SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE AT AGE TWELVE. IT’S FREAKING RIDICULOUS AND IT MAKES ME SO MAD I CAN HARDLY STAND IT! I understand that some of this stuff is the same as it ever was– just wrapped in a new package, but it’s so pervasive and impossible. Aaron and I will stand firm because we believe it’s best, but it won’t be easy.  Rant over, judging over. Sorry. God, middle school sucks.

Starting Middle School: Social Media Edition

Starting Middle School: the Aftermath Edition

Starting middle school: the aftermath edition: Lydia ended up the “locker hero” and was able to help several friends who couldn’t get theirs open. Unfortunately, most of my many questions were answered on repeat with “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember.” The day seemed to render her incapable of functioning in basic ways. In fact, if one didn’t know she’s twelve and had just finished a day at school, one might have thought she was a drunk—slurring her words, tripping over her own feet, overly emotional. I did hear a few positives, but tonight they were overwhelmed by her overwhelmedness. Sounds about right.

Starting Middle School: the Aftermath Edition

Starting Middle School: the Night Before Edition

Nerves are calmed after multiple tours of the schedule and unlocking the locker twice in a row, more than once; the backpack from last year is finally cleaned out (yes, we are slackers); outfits are planned; and I wax nostalgic by finding my 7th grade yearbook (“Mom! You had a *black and white* yearbook?! You’re only 40 something.”) and some classic paint-splattered shades, circa 1984.

jr hi yrbk and shades

Starting Middle School: the Night Before Edition

Starting Middle School: the Probability of Friends Edition

In addition to making mostly unfruitful attempts at locker opening, Lydia and I spent Tuesday afternoon roaming the overly warm school—halls humming with stress and anticipation—as everyone went in search of their classrooms. On the things-to-worry-about-before-starting-middle-school scale, finding rooms pales in comparison to finding out if any of your friends are in your classes. Over the weekend, Lydia went so far as to ask her math-major dad to figure out the probability that she would have at least one friend in each class. Although the numbers he had to work with were sketchy at best, he was happy to oblige. I don’t know what answer he came up with, but the flurry of texts to various friends with pictures of schedules revealed that even if she’s lost and unable to open her locker, at least she will have friends in all of her classes. It’s a good thing, too, as she threatened that there was no way she could possibly go to school if she didn’t. #middleschool

Starting Middle School: the Probability of Friends Edition

Starting Middle School: the Fear Before

Fear of starting middle school has set in for Miss L., and I’m trying to offer what reassurance I can. She’s not having it and I’m probably unconvincing because I know what she’s headed for. I’m starting to think that a little appropriate honesty and bluntness might be a better way to go. “Look, basically, the next couple years are really gonna suck. Girls can be mean and petty. Boys are…boys. They’re probably thinking about your boobs (don’t take pictures of said boobs and send them to any boys!). Everyone is awkward in their bodies and in their heads. You’re twelve. You have no context for any of this. Your brain isn’t fully developed. No one knows what to do with themselves or anyone else. Everyone wants to fit it. Being the only one without a friend in class is your worst fear. Everyone feels the same way you do but no one can say that and wouldn’t know how to express it if they could. You may feel pressure to take extreme measures to fit in. If the extreme measures involve drugs, alcohol, sex, or anything illegal, please don’t. It can have life-altering consequences, such as death or babies. If you do, we love you and forgive you and will always be here to help you. Prayer can help even though you say it doesn’t work for you. Daddy and I can help you. Or your home church leaders. Let us help if you need to. You’ll start to get the hang of it and some of it will be a lot of fun. You might even make some new friends and some memories worth keeping, but some of it it’s still really gonna suck. Then it’s gonna start to get better. Don’t throw yourself at boys or text them constantly. Be the one who’s kind to others. And please don’t take pictures of your boobs.” #MiddleSchool #JesusHelpUs

Starting Middle School: the Fear Before