I vaguely remember having my first daughter and I was straight terrified. I had never held a baby much less taken care of one. I babysat kids around ages 6 and up, and I really didn’t like them. I’m generally not a fan of other people’s kids and I understand that sounds odd, just go with it.
I don’t think I even changed a diaper in the hospital because I was terrified of this tiny person I grew and pushed into the world. Thankfully, my husband was a rock star because I was a mess. When we were leaving the hospital, I think the nurses recognized that I was clueless and scared because they gave us hugs and one told me that all I had to do was keep her alive.
In hindsight, it’s kind of funny because it’s true, you really just need to keep your baby alive. (I am talking tending to the baby’s basic needs, as I fully understand that babies leave us too soon due to reasons completely out of parents’ control, and I am so sorry.) You don’t need fancy equipment, the best books, or even the prettiest clothes. The job of keeping my daughter alive was also daunting because remember those little toys that you had to feed at specific times otherwise it died? Mine always died within hours, but the hospital was letting me leave with an actual baby. The teenage years seemed like another lifetime away and like I had all of the time in the world to prepare myself. I really thought by then, surely, I’d be a parenting pro and I would be able to confidently say “I’ve got this.”
Spoiler alert: I am not a parenting pro, I am still terrified and I am barely hanging on. Ahoy, matey.
Overnight hormone hurricane develops
Fast forward 12 years, we’ve successfully kept her alive so far, and we were staring down middle school. I had heard nothing but horror stories and frankly, I don’t think anyone can effectively prepare you for it. It’s not that the school itself is the enemy, rather, it is the raging ball of hormones that is your child. I cannot tell you how many best friends she had that first year, but I can tell you that it is dramatic and traumatic and once again I was terrified. One minute your child had the best friend they’ve always had and the next, that friend is the absolute worst because she had the gall to sit with someone new at lunch. Tears are involved and it can feel like you’re trying to calm down a rabid raccoon so you find yourself offering it snacks but definitely not saying anything at all for fear it gets worse.
Nobody prepares you for this. They don’t prepare you for the totally normal acts of rebellion because they are trying to learn the boundaries and how far you’ll bend. The sass and backtalk, slamming of doors, and “you’re the worst!” being yelled at you because you had them fold their own laundry.
You’re not the worst, but you might wonder where you went wrong.
You didn’t go wrong.
Like you, your child is trying to figure it out. Middle school is a LOT different than elementary school in every way, they have more responsibility, a little more freedom, and they might be adjusting to a whole new set of kids they aren’t familiar with and trying to find a place they fit in.
Sixth grade was, hands down, the worst. It really was. Seventh grade wasn’t stellar, but I felt like she was narrowing down a group of friends that she felt OK with. Eighth grade was a breeze, she was really gaining confidence in herself, had a pretty good group of friends, and the hormones weren’t as bad.
Typhoons are a thing
Just as I felt like we were really gaining good ground, we have moved to the high school. I’ve told my friends with younger children that it feels like elementary school takes forever to get through, but as soon as they do, they grow up in a blink of an eye. Now, our oldest is in the high school and I can’t lie to you, when I saw her walking into my old high school for the first time, I absolutely cried in the car. I actually sobbed. I could not believe that for starters, I’ve kept her alive for 15 years so far which feels like a feat because I have no idea what I’m doing even still. I also couldn’t believe that she didn’t need me.
Maybe that’s what it was- she didn’t need me.
In elementary school she wanted me to walk in with her and make sure she was settled. In Middle school she wanted me to drive her and just hang back, like WAY BACK, in case she needed money or something after all. In high school, she barely let the car stop before getting out and told me to beat it, basically. Every year students are given more and more responsibility by the school, and it was only this year that I realized they have been slowly making me let go a little, too. It is really up to them to know what is going on and what they need to do.
I was so worried about how high school would go because, again, I’ve heard nothing but horror stories. I know that freshman year is a pretty pivotal year and it can set the tone for the rest of their time until they graduate. I was so busy worrying, that I didn’t notice how ready she was. My daughter wasn’t terrified to gain responsibility and independence.
Read Sara’s tips in Part 2!