You may have read some of my posts about my uber confident pre-teen daughter and how I was sure I’d screw up momming her by missing important cues because I took for granted how confident she has been. And you might remember how I had all the solutions for paying attention and encouraging her to talk to me. Well, I’m here to tell you that she’s no longer a pre-teen. I’m deep into middle school parenting now and I’ve already screwed her up.
Have I Already Screwed This All Up?
Okay, that might have been a little dramatic. What can I say, I’ve spent a lot of time with Ms. Drama herself. I haven’t screwed her up. But I’ve definitely missed cues. I took her infinite positivity to mean that everything is fine and dandy. And I thought, “I’m so lucky to miss out on all the hell that can be middle school parenting with this one.” Nope. Not at all.
After several nights of crying herself to sleep, which her sweet little brother finally told me about because he was worried about her, we had a long conversation. She wasn’t sharing because she thought it was bothering me. When she did try to talk to me, admittedly, I acted too busy to listen. She was struggling with anxiety alone, crying in her room. Middle school parenting fail.
Since then, things have improved with our communication, and she’s more open to share ALL the things with me. Which, I admit, can get exhausting, and often it takes extreme active listening skills to discern what are valid concerns that I need to help her with and what is middle school gossip, teenage assumptions, or straight-up hormones. And there are times I struggle with that active listening because, let’s be real, I’m tired. And she has a LOT of words. But I’ll take it over the “everything is fine” facade I took as “confidence”.
I’ve learned in the last couple of months that my role as mom has shifted from the making of fun crafts and tying her shoes to being a confidant, expert open-ended questioner, advisor, and life coach. Of course, I’m still mom who dishes out chores and probably yells too much. But I’m also the person she can come to with life’s problems. She’s helping me learn when it’s time to listen and when it’s time to advise. Middle school parenting is making me relearn my management training where they taught me how to help others find their way to the solution instead of fixing it for them.
There have been many times in the past few weeks where I’ve questioned my own ability to effectively parent through these challenging years. I’m not sure I’ll get it right, but I’m going to try. The teen years are such a fragile time in their lives, and how we as parents show up and the examples we set will truly impact how they do life as adults. It’s such a roller coaster, but if we even get it a little right, we’ll both grow from these experiences.
In working through all this, the Adventures in Middle School Parenting series was born. This is a series to help parents (including us!) as we navigate this new territory, and hopefully help fellow parents out there know they’re not alone!