New parent of a junior-higher, come sit with me on my porch, . I have 3 things I need to tell you before you send that pubescent creature, whom you recall was a squishy toddler just yesterday, out your front door to their first day of junior high. There are 3 things I learned this past school year you might find helpful or horrible or both.
1. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Here’s the good news, if you can force yourself to remember your own junior-high experiences and use those memories as a foundation from which you function and respond with your now junior-higher, you will be WAY ahead of the game. I didn’t have a horrific junior-high experience, but there is not enough money on this planet to send me back there. This mind-set was my life-vest as I re-entered junior-high in the 21st century, as a MOM.
It is the BEST of times, it is the WORST of times. Your junior-higher will most likely pendulum between these two realities. It can and will change daily, hourly, or on a moments notice with no explanation and no warning. Do you remember your emotional state in junior-high? I DO! I clearly remember feeling out of control a lot and having absolutely NO IDEA why. I mean, I felt this way last week too, but whatever… the pendulum is WAY more stable now that I’m 34. 😉
The cruel and GREAT things about junior-high still exist today. Remember that. These junior-highers may appear to still be small, but they are tiny adults carrying and processing complicated concepts and dilemmas. I was stunned at the different minefields we danced through this year alone. I don’t believe Mark and I are naive or have tried to shelter our children from real life. We are very passionate about introducing topics to our kids at a very young age so WE can be the ones to pen those narratives. Katie was 6, when she first asked us what abortion meant. We told her. We have always believed if you are old enough to ask it, then you are old enough to receive an age appropriate answer. Even still, I spent MANY days grieving the reality of this major transition and all the implications. Y’all, our junior-highers are dealing with REAL stuff. HARD stuff. PAINFUL stuff. Things like cutting, eating disorders, boyfriends, girlfriends, homosexuality, healthy friendships, toxic friendships, drugs, rape, suicide, body shaming, sexual abuse, social media, porn, sex, sexting, cyber-bullying, bullying, blow jobs, masturbation, molestation, and depression. (I need a glass of wine just typing all of those words!) Not to mention, the on-going battle of regular, palpable insecurities everyone is trying to sort out in junior-high.
Parents, please do not run away from these dances in the minefields with your junior-higher. Will it be uncomfortable? Absolutely. Will you squirm on the inside and feel a slight nausea overcome your soul as you explain different terms, positions and procedures? Yeah, you sure will! But oh my goodness, the pay-off is brilliant.
Literally, show up. Be present in your junior-highers life. I think we are tempted to believe because our junior-highers physically need us less, we can detach or go on auto-pilot. FIGHT THIS LIE. Keep showing up. This last year, I felt like Katie needed our presence in her life MORE THAN EVER before. Notice, I didn’t say she needed our advice or bossiness or nagging or meddling…She needed our PRESENCE. Our consistent, still presence.
3. Listen more than you speak.
Oh.my.stars…. this was so hard for me this last year. And sometimes I completely BLEW IT and verbally vomited all over Katie without pausing to pause. Many times I REACTED when I should have RESPONDED. There is a MAJOR difference. But in the tender moments, when I listened to the inner-monologue in my head screaming at me to shut up, I was overwhelmed at the glimpses my sweet girl gave me into her life, into her thoughts, into her heart. The more I was willing to lead with listening, the more vulnerable and soft my conversations with Katie became. A gift.
You guys, Mark and I spent a lot of last year looking at each other with big eyes that spoke, “what in the heck are we doing?!”
But the prize?? Oh the prize.
Friends, we have this girl who lives with us, who became apart of our world on December 7th, 2002 when that test glowed positive… and she is the most amazing creature who deserves ALL OF US! Every inch and fiber of life we can muster up. All of the uncomfortable, awkward and painful become null and void as she blossoms into this incredible woman who is far kinder, wiser and brighter than we could have EVER imagined.
Nothing about junior-high has been easy, but is has been beautiful, raw and unendingly rewarding.
Parents, you WILL survive this next year. There will be days you won’t think you will, but you will. Some days will be messy and rotten. Mamas, you might cry as often as your junior-high daughter. Dads, you might need some serious therapy. But you will make it. One day, one triage at a time!
Here’s to junior-high!