I had heard warnings about Middle school age kids and all the challenges but I was still quite unprepared as a mom. My loving, smiling, affectionate child turned into someone I didn’t recognize on most days. He was distant, defiant, emotional and obsessed with his social media. I would try to talk to him but that seemed to annoy him more. We resorted to snooping through his phone, speaking to parents of his friends, talking to counselors and reading parenting books. I wasn’t sure if he was depressed, angry, hormonal, or just hated us. I didn’t know how to help him but was afraid of ignoring it and letting things get worse.
I wasn’t a first time mom of a teen and I had dealt with some craziness but this seemed worse. I think the social pressure side of it was much more intense. I did realize that many parents of kids this age struggle. I once had a woman I never met start talking to me at the school and telling me her daughter hated her. I was surprised at her candor but my heart broke for her. How helpless and hurt she must feel to pour her heart out to a random stranger. Little did I know that I may feel a bit similar one day.
Parenting is hard since your child keeps changing and by the time you start to understand their needs at one stage, they grow out of it. It’s also hard because there is so much letting go. You get attached to your baby and then he’s suddenly a toddler running away from you. As you start to know and love the toddler and his antics, he starts going to school and exploring a new world. Then you get to appreciate the conversations with this little person but suddenly he’s a tween and a teen who wants to be independent yet also pampered. You enjoy the new stages but still miss the ones that came before.
At the teen age it is hard to know how much freedom to give them. We cannot know everything they are experiencing or doing. Social media makes this difficult and especially with Snapchat where posts disappear. They want their privacy but are still too young and vulnerable to be left alone. You hear of so many cases of depression and teen suicide that there is no way you should ignore potential signs. You have to stay connected and vigilant.
This is why I was so stressed and concerned. I had to make sure my child knew he had love and support and try to get in his head. This took a combination of limiting time on social media, speaking to counselors at school, forcing more family time, and just being there for him. Things did improve and we are all smiling a lot more these days. I am glad he’s out of middle school. However, I’m sure there will be a new challenge tomorrow so I just need to hang on and enjoy this parenting roller coaster.