April 24, 2014

The View From Here: Listening to my Middle-Schooler

Well I have known this week's View contributor for quite awhile now. I think our paths crossed doing Monday Listicles....

Katie of Your Girls and Boys is a working mom of 3. Her oldest is just a year younger than my daughter, and is who she was inspired to talk about today.

Listening to my Middle-Schooler

Jen’s The View From Here series is all about perspective, so when I was thinking about what I wanted to share here today, I thought about my many perspectives in life – the different lenses I view life through every single day, and how my perspective has changed over time. The biggest shift for me in recent years has been my perspective on motherhood. It changes as you’re parenting a baby, then a toddler, a little kid, a big kid, a tween – and though I’m not quite there yet – a teenager.

My oldest baby, my 12-year-old almost teenager, is growing up so much every day, and during her time in middle school, I’ve found myself starting to identify with her more and more. But also it’s been interesting how different my perspective on middle school, girls, friends, all that drama is as a mom (of course). I’m very fortunate to have a smart girl, a well adjusted girl who’s been through a lot in life already but has such a great perspective on everything. A girl who still talks to me about what’s going on in her life, with her friends, in her mind every day. And I’m so grateful for that. It’s everything I wanted for my relationship with my daughters.

(For the record – for my daughters who may one day read this – I also have a wonderful relationship with my sweet and sensitive middle girl who talks to me about every feeling she has, but I’m focusing on my perspective as a mom of a tween here. I do think the fact that I currently have three kids at such different stages – my almost teenaged middle schooler, my elementary school girl, and my toddler boy – actually really shapes my perspective.)

Some things I notice from my perspective as a mom of an almost teenager (sometimes I just don’t like the word “tween”):
  • Middle school girls haven’t actually changed a lot in the last 25 years or so. There’s still the same drama every day. Boy drama – who likes who today? Who’s dating, if it can be called that when all they do is maybe talk to each other at school or send a text? Do two girls like the same boy? Who do the boys like? And even more so, girl drama! Who’s mad at who? What happened? Who knows about it? Whose side are you on? Do you have to take sides? My girl tells me about all this stuff every day, and like I said, I’m glad she does, but geez, the drama! So far she’s not in the middle of it and is more of an observer, trying to be nice and not take sides in the fights.
  • Social media and electronic communication has changed the way the middle school drama plays out. Instead of just talking about something at school each day, maybe sitting on the phone some at night, EVERYONE can find out what’s going on and the fights can just keep on going and going because they can keep in contact any time through texts, emails, calls on their cell phones (I think every kid seems to have one in middle school). To a lesser extent with my girl’s group of friends, there’s activity on Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. I try to keep up, and I fortunately know what my girl is doing with her phone and online, but I think the constant interaction makes it so much harder for the drama to die down – and so much easier for others to get involved and egg things on.
  • Why does there have to be so much emphasis on appearance? I swear girls are encouraged to be so much skinnier today – it’s the look everyone wants. Whether they like it or not, my girls are going to be curvier like their mom, and I hate that they start to feel like curvy is fat at such young ages, not even because someone has said a word to them about their bodies, but because of what they see around them. And when I go to the middle school, I’m struck by how similar the girls look. I’d love it if individuality were encouraged and praised. So I will encourage and praise my girls and hope that others do the same. And above all that? I encourage my girls to be smart and think for themselves because that matters so much more than their appearances.
Though there’s not a teenager in the world who’s ready to hear it or understand it, I wish there were a way to help them understand that all the little things that matter so much at that age will not seem so important when you’re older. But you know what? Someone could say the same thing to me right now – we all have a lot of learning and growing to do, no matter what age we are. It’s easy to look back and feel differently from a new perspective and with more knowledge. So I’ll keep listening to my kids, sharing my perspective in ways that hopefully help them through anything they’re dealing with, and I believe being a good listener and trying to understand their perspectives will encourage them to keep talking.

My daughter will be going into high school next fall.

Yeah, I don't even know what to say about that right now.

Maybe I shouldn't tell Katie that the day Camryn turned 13 a switch flipped and she instantly became all teenager-y. She started staying in her room with the door closed, getting all angry and refusing to say goodnight to whichever parent had angered her and lately she is doing some serious eye-rolling whenever she is reminded to do something.

I understand what Katie said about relating to her daughter more the older she gets. Adolescence is still easy for me to recall, so yeah, I get where Camryn is at....mostly.

Please comment and/or share, and then get to know Katie at her:

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