Thursday, October 24, 2013

Growing Up is Hard

Growing up is hard.
I'm seeing it in my middle school son who is trying to make his way through the jungle that is sixth grade..going to awkward social events, making true friends, figuring out who's who, dealing with pantsing in the gym locker room, rejection, name calling, and bullying. It all comes with the territory in junior high. 

As a mom, I want to go in there and fight these battles like the mom that goes in on the dodgeball game in that commercial, blocking all the balls that come flying in her son’s direction. 

"It's okay, Mommy's here!"

I want to find out who these kids are and give them the what for. I want to start home schooling so neither one of my kids will have to deal with any of it. I want to turn into mama Bear and protect my cubs at all costs.

What good does that do really? How does that prepare them for the real world? We are so busy trying to protect our kids, we forget we can also use the uncomfortable situations as teachable moments. Our first instinct is to blame the other party for upsetting our child rather than helping them become resilient enough to handle an uncomfortable situation. Why? Why wouldn't our first instinct be to provide them with information encouraging them to deal with these challenges? Why wouldn't we want them to know what it's like to lose at a sport or be on the team that doesn't get a trophy at the end of the season because they placed last? Isn't the goal for them to be independent adults? If they depend on us to get them out of every jam they get in while they get the trophy no matter what, that isn't going to happen. We know from experience that independence is a process and it takes practice, it's our job to help them get good at it. 

As a parent, I want both my children to have more skills than I did at their age. I want to give them the tools they need in order to achieve this. I want them to understand that these things happen in life - I can't bear to tell them it doesn't all end in school - but that it's how we deal with these situations that actually make the difference in how it affects us. I want them to know that these words are coming from kids with a different family than we have and maybe they learn these words from being called them themselves. I want them to comprehend that if they ask someone to dance and they are told no that it doesn't mean that will happen next time, not everyone will say no. I want them to believe in who they are enough to know that these words are just words, where we put them and how much meaning we give them is what counts. Giving words power

"Mom, I went up and asked so and so if she wanted to dance and I got rejected."

"Well how did she say it? Was she like Ewww I'm not dancing with you or did she just say no."

"She just said no and walked away."

"So you got a no - maybe she was busy with friends. Good for you for taking the risk and even asking - that takes guts. Think of it in baseball terms. Those guys that hit all the home runs all the time in the big leagues strike out more often than they ever hit homers."
"So I just got the first one out of the way."

There’s a quote from Dani Johnson that says:
"Growing up is hard.  People who take us apart and tell us what we're NOT surround us. But it only takes one person to tell you who you are to overcome it all." ~Dani Johnson

I want to be that one person to remind them who they are, to keep that in the front of their brain and give those words power. I know I won't always be that one person but while I can I will and by doing that, I am assisting them in becoming that one person for themselves. 

"Mom, so and so called me a (insert ugly name here)* again today."
"Are you that ugly name? Do you believe you are that ugly name? Is that the truth about you?"

"No. Of course I'm not (insert ugly name here)"

(sometimes he doesn't even know what the word means - which to me is just an added bonus)

"What are you then? Are you smart?"

"Smart and funny...(believe the list could go on)"

"As long as you keep believing THAT, you will never believe that you are (insert ugly name here)"

Think for just a moment about what you call your children both in their presence and when you don't think they are listening. Just like all moms have eyes in the back of their heads, you know children have this sixth superpower sense of hearing that even when they can't hear you from across the room when told to take a shower or unload the dishwasher, they can suddenly hear a pin drop from two floors up when they think you think they aren't listening. 

Are you telling them who they actually are? Are you kidding when you say these things to them or other people? Are you using labels like (insert any vaguely ugly label here) - because if you are they will eventually believe it and start acting accordingly if they aren't already. Whether you are serious or not. It works with both negative and positive words – which direction do you want your child taking off in?
Power of words.

It's too easy to pick out the flaws and what they are doing wrong, leave that up to the middle schoolers and focus yourself on what they are doing right. Focus on qualities you would like to see in your child rather than actions or behaviors that you don't appreciate. I have to remind my husband of this more often than I do myself of course. You never know when a little encouragement could turn into an accomplishment.

It's a fine web we weave this parenting thing. I'm no expert, I'm only going on what happens here and by observing other parents interacting with their children. I have also been accused of sounding like Danny Tanner on more than one occasion. I think it's all the blah blah blah. Maybe it was the whole putting it into baseball terms thing.

Growing up is hard. 


Coffee Lovin' Mom said...

And it never "baby" is now 17 and now I realize the world is much larger!

Coffee Lovin' Mom said...

First of all - YAY! - I found another Chicago blog! :)

And I know exactly how you're feeling. My oldest is a freshman in H.S. A lot of times she won't tell me what's wrong, but when she does I try to help her navigate the teenage landscape as best as I can. Hang in there.