Middle school. The awkward years. The growing up years. The drama years. Do you remember EVERY detail from middle school? I do.
Back in my day, it was called Jr. High. I remember my locker location. I remember the popular hangout spot. I remember my ESPRIT book bag, my ice blue eye shadow, and my big teased bangs. And yes, oh yes – the school dance … pause a moment for the butterflies to settle as I sing Bon Jovi’s “I’ll Be There For You” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine” in my head … sigh.
I can also vividly remember my crush. J.J. Bonar. He was one of the popular kids. I wasn’t. We never dated. I don’t even think we talked. We smiled as we passed each other in the hall. Then one day we started sharing notes. You know. Those notes that we meticulously folded in the shape of a rectangle with the little fold-under tab? He was smooth. He could woo you with his words. Then one day, my Jr. High world came to a stand still. J.J. Bonar photocopied one of my notes and decided to hang it up all around school … WHY?! Because that’s what middle school boys do! At the time I was crushed. But then I did what any mature Jr. High girl would do; I returned the gesture with photocopies of one of his notes. Somehow that relationship didn’t go anywhere.
Middle School = Brands. Bullies. Body Image.
My youngest daughter Kaitlyn entered middle school last year, and even though I felt like I had all of the answers for her, I didn’t. I discovered a gem of a book, The Drama Years by Haley Kilpatrick, and I will be referencing it OFTEN because … well … she pretty much nails it! (Direct quotes will be in italics.)
We don’t realize it until it’s upon us, but the transition into middle school forces our daughters to face grown-up things to worry about, like dealing with crushes and negotiating with how she feels about her body and appearances. What group will she fit into?
FITTING IN (and my #momfail)
My daughter Kaitlyn doesn’t fit a mold. In fact, she is put off by people who conform, you know, the kids who all dress the same. So it didn’t surprise me when she decided that she would create her own style of clothes. Not preppy. Not goth. Just Kaitlyn. It took a little while for me to get used to her middle school style. There were even days that I pushed her to look more “modern – current – 2015” … One of my darkest mornings as a mom was when I forced her to change into a different outfit. I still remember her words … “WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO CHANGE ME?”
UGH … I just wanted her to fit in. I remember in Jr. High desperately trying to fit in. Remember my ESPRIT book bag? Well, mine was homemade. Looking back on it now, I’m pretty impressed that my mom was able to create a knock-off that fooled my classmates. Very Pinterest-y, if you ask me. But at the time, I was terrified that someone would notice the hand-stitching or the painted letters.
“It’s hard to just be myself. I don’t want to fit in 100 percent and end up wearing what everyone else is wearing, but I don’t want to stand out a lot of the time, because then you’ll feel weird for being totally different” – Charlotte, twelve, California.
“More than ever before, girls feel they must be ‘perfect’ – in school, in sports and other after-school activities, and at home.”
My daughter has always been happy-go-lucky. Nothing rattled her. Then out of the blue, she started expressing how stressed she was. Stressed about her grades. Stressed about school. Stressed about her friends’ being bullied. It took me back a few steps. My daughter, who last year didn’t mind if she got a B or C, is now stressing if she doesn’t get straight A’s.
“Parents can help by recognizing their tween girl’s stress for what it is: not waving it away or assuming that only adults experience stress.”
THE INTERNET AND LIVING IN THE SOCIAL WORLD
“Without question, the biggest shift in the world of middle school girls is technological. With smart phones, Skype, Gchat, texting, and Facebook, girls in sixth through eighth grate today have more opportunities to connect with others than any previous generation.”
Here I thought my photocopied hand-written note was devastating … imagine if that was an e-mail or text that went viral over the internet. There’s no taking back words or photos that go online … and unfortunately this young generation is finding out the hard way.
We need to be involved. Stay involved. We can’t ignore!
“In interviews with both tweens and their parents, a few things stood out. Most parents said they want to help their daughters keep a strong sense of self throughout these years, but many are too busy to spend a lot of time helping their daughters on that journey of self-discovery – or they don’t know just how important it is.”
Do YOU have a daughter who is about to enter middle school? Or maybe she’s in the thick of the drama, and you don’t know what to do? I honestly have just scratched the surface to the advice and eye-opening facts in The Drama Years. Would you like to continue on this journey of discovering the key to their hearts and emotions? We will launch a book club in mid-October. Dates and details will be announced on the Facebook page, but you can join the book club group here.
*Direct quotes from The Drama Years in italics