Being a mama bear just comes with being a mom. I cannot begin to imagine how to describe the fear a mother lives with every day. There’s the big fears like cliffs, long hard stairways, choking, drowning, electrocution, and busy streets. Then there’s the smaller concerns like being around a sick person, eating dirt, and daddies that throw too high. Most of a child’s first years we are protecting them. Baby gates, mesh crib bumpers, electrical socket covers.
I’m in new territory.
I’m going to be honest. I do not have the fondest memories of middle school. Actually, they are pretty awful. Those were unforgiving years. I had friends at church, but I went to a different school than all of them. I did have one friend at school who would chat with me at the bus stop, but I didn’t have any classes with her. We did sit together at lunch sometimes too. We actually had very little in common, but she was nice and there’s something about just having someone to sit with so you weren’t alone. I think she needed me as much as I needed her for that. I’m still friends with her, in fact. (The beauty of Facebook.) There was one other close friend, and we had a ton in common, and were like sisters there for awhile. Then her parents got divorced and I never saw her again. That was the heartbreak there.
You would think that I could protect my daughter from the “mean girls” as she is homeschooled. Well, that wasn’t my intention. I just kinda hoped it was a bonus.
But, no. It turns out “mean girls” are everywhere. Probably because sin is everywhere. It’s in school, churches, and activities. My daughter has encountered a relationship where her charm and wit aren’t enough. She can’t win over this friendship and she’s tried everything. One of her friends manipulates her she doesn’t know why.
We’ve been talking a lot. All the moms who have been through this age say just keep them talking. It’s hard, because I love silence. But the more I follow this advice, the more I see the wisdom in it. Talk even when you don’t feel like talking. Talk when you are tired. Talk when they are open. Let them talk it out, and make the time.
I know almost all my daughter’s friends. She makes them so fast it’s hard to keep up. When I hear of someone being mean to her, or rude to her, or pit other friends against her in the games girls play, I’m so tempted to let my “mother bear” loose. I actually have thought about it. I’ve prayed about it. I’ve fantasized about it.
Some other advice that I got from another mother from a couple of years ago, though, has been stuck in my head. In their house, they welcomed failures because each one was an opportunity to teach their child something that they wouldn’t learn otherwise. While it’s not exactly a failure we’re working with, it’s a situation that has been handed to me on a silver platter.
1. I’ve realized that this is when I can teach my daughter to pray for those who hurt her, and then pray with her.
2. I’ve realized that this is when I can teach my daughter about healthy boundaries in relationships.
3. I’ve realized that my daughter needs these lessons on how to deal with difficult people with grace, who are likely dealing with situations of their own that are beyond our reach to fix.
I called up my own mom the other day, and told her how I’ve decided not to get involved in the dialogue between girls, but to hold my daughter’s hand through it. I’ve decided not to protect her from it. I’ve decided to stand by her side as she endures it, and not be her shield.
I honestly think being her shield would feel better than what I’m feeling now.
My mom, I think, hurt just hearing about it, because she knows all too well the hurt of watching your child hurt, and the realization you reach when your child reaches a certain age when you are certain that you can’t protect them from everything, and you have to start using wisdom when to protect them, and when to stand alongside them, holding their hand. Which stance to take various from situation and situation, which makes it so hard.
I think my mom hurt more for me than for my daughter. (Though I’m sure she felt that too.) I’m her child, and she saw me hurting, so she hurt alongside me. She’s still my mom and she still feels it deeply, though thousands of miles apart. I’m just watching my daughter go through middle school friendships. I cannot imagine watching her go through motherhood.
I’m grateful, though, that my mom is still holding my hand as I face things. She still picks up the phone at her work just to make sure I know her door is always open when it comes to me. I’m in my thirties. She doesn’t tell me what to do anymore, but she’s still holding my hand as I endure it.
This repositioning, this moving away from guarding my daughter to being her right hand counsel…it’s foreign. I’m surprised how much it feels like friendship. Our relationship is changing. Not overnight, and not like a light switch. It’s more like a sunrise, when the light starts to change color.
I’ve always had this idea of what parenting preteens and teens would look like. Change is scary, both for parents and children. I’m probably more uncertain as a mother now than I was when my daughter was a newborn. I’ve just been leaning on these moms who are looking back and advising me on things like, “Just keep the conversation open,” and “use this as an opportunity to make her stronger and full of wisdom.” I’ve been scared.
But now I’m starting to see the light slowly changing color. These twinkly stars of a little girl that I adore are fading, and I get so scared, but then I realize it’s not that the stars are going away, it’s that the entire sky is starting to change. I get to witness that, as painful as it is some days. I wish that I could remove all the painful parts of life and leave only the good. But that’s not up to me.
There were times I was just so tired from the events of the day that I just didn’t want to talk, but made myself. Now I’m listening more and more. The other night, I was so tired, and I said I wanted to be alone (like usual). The little girls were in bed, and the 3 school aged kids were just doing quiet reading/playing by the fireplace as they get to stay up later. They know that this hour between 8-9 is a household quiet hour. I just need it.
I got to my quiet space, and I thought of her reading one of my favorite all time books in the other room, and I realized I just wanted to talk to her some more. I actually got up and went over to hang out with her some more. (I’m such an introvert and this quiet time in the evening is my oxygen so it’s just not like me.)
I just didn’t feel done.
We talked about the book she was reading, and I asked her what she thought about certain parts. She loves literature at least as much as me, and it was fun to have a literary discussion just for fun with my little scholar. It was so beautiful. The more she talks with me, and asks for my advice, and shares her dreams, and brings forth her ideas, the more I’m just awestruck by the beauty of it all. Finally she said, “Well Mom, I guess I better go to bed.”
I’m still just emotional over it.
Parenting a middle schooler certainly has its ups and downs. But the ups are just so much greater than I could have imagined. My goodness, this sunrise just takes my breath away.