I remember the middle school years like they were yesterday. The cool, caustic burn of a Clearasil wipe straight from the little plastic tub. The thrill of an encouraging word from a favorite teacher at the top of a paper. The sweet-sick ache of yearning for something, but unsure of just what.
No matter where your child is going to middle school, and no matter whether you subscribe to a strict no cell phone policy or whether you are helping plan her Pinterest board of back-to-school outfits, there is something we can all agree on: middle school can be tough.
It is meant to be a time of transition and has been living up to its clunky reputation for ages. Your middle-sized human may vacillate between needy and independent, chatty and aloof, adept and clumsy, leaving you as confused as they are.
There are a million checklists for them: school supply list, dress code, class schedule. But what about for me, the middle school mom? What in the world will I need to brave the next few years without losing my sanity? Here is the checklist I have assembled for myself as I dust off the lunch boxes and prepare for a whole new era in parenting:
1. A Been-There-Done-That Mom Friend. Bless them. They have done this thing and are willing to share. Extract every bit of information you can from them. Carpool tips, study tips, tips about extracurricular activities, tips about managing wacky middle school behavior…
2. Ride Shares. I’m not talking about putting your kid in an Uber. I’m talking about the carpool matrix that you will be in charge of scheduling the next few years. There is no way you can get them everywhere they need to go (and miraculously they need to go a lot more places all of a sudden). It may include sitters, but you can’t call them sitters, because technically your child is old enough to be a sitter, so we’ll just stick with “rides”.
3. Coffee. Just throwing that in there. And if you need a new recommendation to start this new phase of life, might I recommend the Dirty Cold Brew from Sweetwaters in the Vista. This cup of 180 calorie magic includes cold brew, espresso, mocha and cream so it more than gets the job done.
4. A Support System. I’m kind of a lone wolf, so I have to work at this, but you can find out so much information by joining the group text, group app or just following the various social media accounts for the school, youth group and extracurricular activities. If I can do it, so can you.
5. So. Much. Patience. It’s so easy to lose my patience when my middle-sized person seems to be making a mountain out of a molehill. I mean, how many different combinations can we consider for the first-day outfit? But that molehill is a mountain to her. Respect the molehill.
6. Listening Ears. Man, this is hard for me, too. I have so many solutions! If she would just listen to me and do as I say these next few years would be a snap. But that is because I’m viewing middle school from a 40-year-old perspective with a whole lot more living under my belt. Plus, times have changed a lot. And if I want to know what is going on, my ears are going to get me there quicker than my mouth.
7. A Firm Foundation. Yes, I’m working on my listening skills, but I’m not afraid to remind my child who and whose they are. My goal is to keep reinforcing what we stand for and what we believe. Ad nauseam.
8. A No-Fly Zone. That would be for the helicopter I’m trying to park. My husband still makes the propeller sound when I’m hovering a little too closely over our children, but I promise I’m working on it. I suppose there is a good balance between free-range and hovering and I’m trying to find it. Help me, people.
9. A Go-To Comfort Food Recipe. I remember how certain dishes used to erase a bad day when I was in middle school. Now, I’m no Betty Crocker, but I can whip up a mean pot of homemade mashed potatoes. Extra butter. Extra sour cream. Extra salt. And when words fail and tears fall, this usually does the trick.
10. A Sense of Humor. Years from now all of these things that are giving us fits will be giving us fits of laughter. I hope.
Dr. Jonas Salk has been quoted as saying, “Good parents give their children Roots and Wings. Roots to know where home is; Wings to fly away and exercise what’s been taught them.” I’ll just try not to fly so closely so that I clip those wings with my helicopter.