Monday, April 14, 2014
Parents just don't understand
"You don't understand, Mom". Said with all of her 11 year old wisdom and assurance. We sit in the car outside of her middle school as she waits to go inside. She feels antsy because none of her friends are standing out there. She points out a few of the kids that she knows but "no, we aren't friends" and "she can be mean sometimes". I ask questions to find out exactly what she means by these statements. But, I wouldn't understand. Yes I do, baby, yes I do. I remember it well.
I remember exactly what it feels like to be in her shoes. To be in 6th grade, just discovering that there is a hierarchy within the walls of the school and trying to figure out where I fit in it. I remember what it feels like to realize that friendships aren't formed simply because someone sits beside me in class or because we both like gymnastics. I remember being aware of the fact even though I wore a particular shirt every week last year it suddenly oozes "uncool" and there is "no way I can wear that!". I remember the butterflies in my stomach as I waited for my friends to show up at our lunch table so, God forbid, I wouldn't have to be seen sitting by myself. I remember it well.
I also remember saying "You don't understand, Mom". How could she possibly understand? My mom and I were so different and nothing was the same when she was a kid compared to what I was going through and of course my life was so much harder than hers that there was no way in the world that she could possibly understand. Now Sierra runs that same thought through her head. And when I tell her that middle school can be the hardest time and then high school gets a little easier and college is just freakin' awesome... well, she's not buying it. When I tell her that she will look back in 10 years and realize how fast this time flew by and in 15 years she'll look back and see that middle school was just a tiny blip on her radar of life... she's not buying that either. Just like I didn't believe my mom when she told me the same things. As much as my heart aches to make her understand, I know that there is no way to make her see that this day, this week, this next 15 minutes while she waits to go into the school will not define her for all of eternity.
So what's a mom who "doesn't understand" supposed to do. After blaming myself for all of my child's insecurities (is this because we let her cry it out or was it that we weren't aggressive enough dealing with the bully in her 2nd grade class?) I try to look ahead to what I can do for her. While putting her in a bubble would be my first option, I do know that it's not realistic. The world is full of bullies and mean girls and uncomfortable social situations, regardless of one's age. As much as I'd love to "deal with it" for her I need to give her the skills to do it herself. I have to teach her that she should follow both her heart and her gut. To know that she needs treat others with kindness but know when to stand up for herself. I want her to learn that the way people act towards others is often a reflection of how they feel about themselves. Sometimes the meanest people should be pitied instead of hated. She needs to know that while it may hard to control how she feels she can control how she acts upon those feelings. I want her to choose happiness... most days at least, and to know that it can be contagious, even amongst hormonal tweens. I hope she knows that she has a safe place at home and with me where she can talk when she needs to and I'll try to give her the space to work out what she needs to work out on her own (key word: try). Although I doubt that she will get it until she is standing with her own child outside of a middle school, I hope that there is a tiny bit of understanding in her that I do get it. I really do.