Charting New Territory - Middle School
It came in the mail yesterday. His middle school schedule. My heart broke just a little. Middle school is not an easy time. Every one around you is awkward, growing, insecure, trying to find their identity. Kids can be mean and at the same time, some of your truest friendships are formed. It's a little bit of a landmine. Say this, wear that, do this, definitely don't do that. It's scary for both of us.
He's growing into such a wonderful guy but he's still a kid. A true in-beTween. He still wants me to scratch his back at night and lay in my bed to watch a movie together. I'm teaching him how to do his own laundry and dishes. I still have to remind him to brush his teeth. I'm teaching him what it means to be a good friend and how to stand up for what's right. He's not quite ready to get rid of the Legos but his social network, his squad, and his private Instagram account is quite entertaining. He told me last week he gets all his new from Instagram now. The latest trades in the NBA and who was cut from NFL training camps apparently count as newsworthy.
6 months ago he got his first phone. I watched him like a newborn. Instead of checking the rise and fall of his chest while he peacefully slept in the crib, I stood slightly over him while he lazily reclined on the couch and watched the messages he sent. I asked him a lot of questions. He told me I was acting like a stalker. I told him to get over it, I was his mama. We've had a lot of conversations in the last few months about integrity, safety, kindness, and respectfulness. It's all new training ground, and we're learning it together.
He wants me close then he pushes me away. He still kisses me goodnight every single night and then he sleeps in until 10. He rides in the front seat and the radio is no longer mine. He has quite an eclectic taste in music - Hip-hop, pop, and 80's hits. He tells me I'm not allowed to dance, "it's cringy mom."
He had a "girlfriend" for 6 weeks and she texted him. A lot. It was hard on me to watch him get sucked into her drama but I gave a little advice here and there and stressed the importance of boundaries with her. He finally decided on his own that he had to break it off. He asked me how to break up with her without hurting her feelings. Oh my heart. It was one of the greatest compliments he could have given me. He wanted my opinion, he wanted to be respectful, he needed help setting up a boundary. He told me later that I gave him good advice. He's not interested in dating again - "until at least 9th grade."
Our house is a revolving door for his friends. We frequently have a houseful of boys eating our food, drinking our Gatorade, playing basketball in the driveway and hide-n-seek in the woods around us. They are all in this same stage together. Figuring out the awkwardness of life, spreading their wings a little more, while staying close to the nest at the same time. I pray for them all the time - for their friendships, for their choices, for their integrity and faith. I'm glad for our home to be their base camp. A safe place to hang out, to share life, to eat and play, to build memories.
I've been a stay at home mom for 12 years now. My youngest is 4 years old. I'm still in the preschool years with her. Still fixing mac n cheese for lunch while watching Disney Junior. Still doing time-outs for temper tantrums. Still setting up play dates and helping her to get dressed and wash her hair. I've been in the preschool years for quite some time now. I feel like a veteran preschool mom.
But I've realized this summer that my role in being here and being available for my middle schooler is just as important. He wants me around and to be available. He needs me to be involved in life, in conversations, in his friendships. He wants me to know his friends. He wants me to be here so that they can hang out together. I still have plenty of parenting to go with him. In some ways I feel like I am starting all over again. Just like a first time parent who really doesn't have a clue what they are doing, I am charting all new territory. I remember when he was a baby I would tell him, "I've never been a mama and you've never been a baby so I guess we're going to teach each other and learn together."
I've never had a middle-schooler, he's never been in middle school. We're teaching each other. We're going to make mistakes. We're learning together. I'm watching him walk all over again. I'm praying for his safety and for me to help him learn and grow. I'm doing all I can to keep our conversations open and on-going. We're going to figure this thing out together.