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More questions than Answers: Parenting, Middle School, Coming of Age
How do I help my sixth grader deal with life? How do I invite her to realize that what is inside is what is important? How do I tell her that the good friends will come, the ones that bring you up, the ones that make you feel good, ones that are kind and considerate and caring? How do I tell her it doesn’t matter what the other girls whisper about her when she walks by them in the hallway? How do I explain that sitting at the “popular” table is not what it’s cracked up to be, and it won’t make a difference 5 or even 3 years from now? Because no matter how many times I tell her that she is smart, she is beautiful inside and out, she is amazing, brave and courageous, she needs validation from others in her tribe. I sit with her and tell her about an older girl I used to be friends with who lived upstairs in our apartment building, and who would whip me with a belt, like her mother did to her, and I was terrified, and I would run away and cry, but I would keep coming back because I wanted her friendship and her attention, however twisted it was. And then there were the mean rich girls precisely in sixth or seventh grade, with whom I wanted to hang so badly that I would steal money from my parents savings, to skip school and take everyone out to McDonalds or Pizza Hut. I would do anything to be liked by them, to be accepted and to feel a part of their “popular” group. Watching her go through this coming of age time, where she realizes the world isn’t what she expected, that some people aren’t nice, aren’t kind, and are intentionally cruel, but yet she can see and feel that they, too, have their own battles that they fight, invisible, coated with all this outwardly pointed anger, is incredibly tough. Nobody said it is easy to be a parent. Nobody said there would not be tears, fear, angst, and stories, and hugs, and love so strong, so powerful, yet somehow not feeling like it is quiet enough to tame the pain. I am grateful that I am able to be here for her, and that she has the courage to express what she is feeling, even if it isn’t something that can be “fixed”, “solved” and “addressed” immediately. Parenting is a process, where both parties are growing up, and both are teachers, no matter their generation.