I don't think it would be an earth shattering revelation to anyone for me to say that middle school rates probably the worst ever time in many people's lives. I know it really was a stinker for me.
And, I don't think I'd be telling mothers of middle schoolers anything they didn't know by saying watching your kid go through middle school is probably rated right around the same spot.
I am having trouble with this tonight...it's weighing heavy on my heart. I'm writing about it so maybe I can go to sleep at some point.
Sure, everyone hates middle school and everyone hates watching their kids go through middle school, right? Except. I don't think the experience is created equal for everyone. Sure, it's not the most fun time in life for pretty much anyone, but let's be honest...for some it's worse than for others.
I'm thinking there must be something in my genetic makeup that makes it particularly awful for me. And what really stinks is watching my sweet daughter go through it and knowing it must be my fault that it sucks so bad for her.
I mean, surely the moms of the girls who are invited to everything, included in all the pictures, have girls texting and calling to arrange "hangout" dates -- it can't possibly be THAT difficult for them, right?
And of course, the moms of the girls with all the confidence, the moms of the girls whom all the other girls in the class want to be like...it can't be THAT hard...you know, to watch your girl "rule the roost" and even watch your girl be kind of mean to other girls, but those other girls want so badly to fit in that they don't even get all that mad at your girl being mean to them. Shoot, watching THAT daughter go through middle school can't be all that terrible.
Here's the thing. My daughter is one of those steady-eddie girls. She is honest with others. She sticks by her friends through thick and thin. She doesn't have a bad word to say about anyone (unless or until they've been mean to her...then she'll at least speak her opinion, even if it is negative). She is smart and kind. Sure, I'm her mom, so I am sure there are some faults I would forget...but for the most part, even the things I correct her on, are pretty minor. (Well, Sarah, I might not have said it quite THAT way....an example of something I might say these days.)
And, to my knowledge, there's not a big reason anyone dislikes my daughter. I think she suffers from about the same sort of thing I do, socially. She's not the first person on anyone's mind. No one is clamoring to be her friend. She's the last one picked when they are picking teams, right? She's the one left off the party invites (and has been throughout middle school). She's the one who would be left off the table if the girls were allowed to pick where they sit at lunch. Yes -- I'm the grateful mom for the lunchroom seating assignments because I know my daughter would most likely be one hurt without it.
Even the girls who claim to be her friends...when the oh-so-glam girls beckon, they drop my daughter like a hot potato. They aren't mean to her, but they don't bring her along.
The only thing that makes seventh grade better than sixth grade is the fact that Sarah has matured and just kind of shrugs it off and expects it now. When it started happening in sixth grade, she clammed up and stopped talking to me altogether and went through some depression type behavior. Now, she talks to me about it, admits that it bothers her, but seems to figure it's par for the course. Sad.
She admitted to me over the course of this year that it has bothered her when the only reason certain people texted her was to get help with homework. Apparently, she's put a stop to that somehow. But then it bothers her that people will say to her individually that they are good friends, but will never allow a public picture of themselves with her. These kids are new teenagers and are on Instagram and Twitter...and I know it bothers Sarah to see that no one takes a "locker pic" with her. And even when she has a friend over to hang out, no pictures are posted or mention is made publicly that anyone's hanging out with Sarah and having fun. It all seems so stupid and trivial (I KNOW!!!) but when you look at it through a 12/13-year-old's eyes...THIS is the sort of thing that can suck the most. The adult in me says to Sarah, "In the grand scheme of life -- this stuff doesn't matter." But the rejected 7th grade girl inside of me cries a heavy cry over it that night.
Sarah and I had a great conversation a week or so ago about setting realistic expectations with the kids she goes to school with. I have a hard time calling them her friends, because to be quite honest, once high school begins, the current crop she attends school with will change and, I would imagine, so will whomever she calls a friend. But it was hard to say, "Sarah -- we're almost through 7th grade and you haven't been invited to stuff...let's not expect it. Then it doesn't hurt so much." It was hard because I wish I had a more positive message to give her. But this was how I coped (eventually) and it's all I know how to do.
Sad, isn't it? I'm teaching my child how to build walls to protect herself. I wish it weren't necessary. But, the sooner she learns not to expect people to invite her or include her in things, the better off she will be. Is that just a jaded mother speaking? Perhaps. But, I think with two middle school years under my belt, and the experience I've witnessed so far...I'm not too far off the mark.
Will teaching her to build walls and protect herself make watching her finish middle school any easier? No. Even if she protects her heart from the crushing blows of exclusion, there will be something, I am sure.
And, I have heard people say it's this way for everyone, but I have a really hard time believing that. I think it's difficult for everyone for sure -- difficult in that, everyone's going through puberty and adjusting to new/different expectations in the classroom and all of that. But I believe it's harder for the kids on the "outside" -- the kids no one thinks of, the kids who feel like an afterthought inside.
It's difficult for me to put a finger on how it's happened that my daughter finds herself on the "outside". It really must be a genetic "gift" I've bestowed upon my children, yay for them <sarcasm>. Regardless, I sure wish I knew how to make it easier. Maybe I could write a book and become wealthy.
Or not -- because that's the thing about when middle school sucks for you -- you feel like you're the only one having such a hard time.