Thursday, April 16, 2009

Transition Years

Middle school is a scary place. I only vaguely remember middle school. I remember a skinny, awkward girl with huge pink glasses, unruly curly hair, who pretended to be totally into The New Kids on the Block because they were the most popular band. Ever. Well, at least according to any other preteen girl you asked at the time. My parents were heavily debating whether or not I should be allowed to watch "Dirty Dancing," even though all of my friends had already seen it. I remember my father buying me some L.A. Gear high tops with sparkly purple laces and thinking I was going to be the coolest girl in school. While I wasn't the coolest girl (I mean, who could be with glasses like those?) small group of modest friends were impressed. But then, they would have been impressed with me, anyway...because those were my true friends.

I see middle school has not changed much. The New Kids on the Block have been replaced with The Jonas Brothers, and the movies parents have to preview first, like "Dirty Dancing," are now about vampires. The underlying current of rampant hormones, low self-esteem, desparate attempts at self discovery, and brief surges of social awareness still flows through the hallways. Those who aren't careful get dragged under. How, as a parent, do we navigate our children through these troubled waters? Especially when our children just wish we'd go walk off a plank somewhere and leave them alone?

Watching my son and daughter I get brief flashes of my own preteen years. They are at extreme opposite ends of the spectrum...I was somewhere in the middle. My son is very self aware. He is not one to put on an act to try and fit in. I am proud of him for that...but I see him struggle to remain afloat in a sea of wannabe's and pack leaders.

My daughter, on the other hand, is another story. I have watched my extremely self aware child start to lose her sense of self as she tries desparately to mold herself into the image of the queen bees that she admires. I see her struggle as her social awareness gets twisted in the tide...I can almost see her mentally tick off in her head the behaviors needed to fit in: wear Abercrombie shirts, check....giggle incessantly, check....fawn over Edward Cullen, check...pick on kids who act like my brother even though I might secretly have a crush on them, check....don't ever admit to liking Hannah Montana, check. On one hand, I'm glad to see that she has friends, and isn't one of the kids getting picked on. On the other, it saddens me to see her have to play the game, and not realize what a truly remarkable person SHE is. I also see her setting herself up to get hurt.

As a parent, you want to throw out a life preserver. You want to tell your son that it may be rough now, but the other kids will be jealous later when he's making big bucks designing websites or creating video games. At future high school reunions they will act as though they were his best friends. You want to tell your daughter that it isn't worth it. These girls are fickle...they will turn on you in a heartbeat. They will not be the true friends that will be there for you later in life. That boy you are making fun of behind his back...the one you like...will end up with another girl, one who looks past what others think.

But you can't. You can try...but they won't listen, anyway. I suppose this is the time that they need to learn their own lessons. I don't know who it's harder for...them or us.

Man, and I thought I was long past those middle school years, never to have to suffer through them again.

Can I at least put my Johnny Depp poster back on the wall?


  1. I hate middle school! I hate teen girls! LOL It's so hard, especially if you were one of those girls that had friends but weren't popular. You know what it's like. UGH! I'm constantly talking to K about "dumb girls" (my words) how to handle even the most innocent situation. It's so hard, I'm there with you.

    Side note one of my BFF's in 5th-6th grade LOVED Johnny! I kid you not her entire room was filled with him. Every inch of her walls, door and ceiling were covered in Johnny, and she hated Winona Ryder!

  2. There's always a place for Johnny...

    Don't worry, she'll discover herself on her own, just like we all had to. It's sort of the modern day walkabout. Some people grow up and learn their lessons, and some people never get past that.

    But, she's got a strong momma influence in you, and she'll turn out just fine!