Like many parents, I’d look into the big, round eyes of my young children and dread the days my kids became teenagers. At two months or six years, we think we can protect our children and hold onto their innocence. But the thought of middle school, adolescence, interest in sex, attitudes, pimples, cliques, experimenting, drivers ed, and well, we don’t want those years to come.
My kids are one school year apart. And with one girl and one boy, plus the added challenge of parenting alone, I dreaded what was ahead in middle school. But a funny thing happened. We had an excellent middle school experience. There was little to no drama, and what’s even better, our relationship has come out on the other side stronger.
The 8 reasons you may love the middle school years
Laughter The laughter I have with my middle schoolers surpasses any kind of laughter I’ve had with them. When my kids were younger, I’d laugh when they did something funny. But laugh so hard my face hurt? Multiple times a week? No. That’s only happened since my kids have grown into their sense of humor.
Late nights I thought the late nights would end when my babies became big kids, and my sleep would become mine again. The late-night talks I have with my teenagers have surprised and delighted me. I don’t need to say much of anything. Teenagers come alive, the darker it gets. If I can summon a second or third wind, then their excited voices can keep me awake.
Who they are becoming When our kids are babies, we look at their baby faces and imagine who they’d become when they grew up. When they begin middle school, we see their real personalities taking hold. I see my son becoming so passionate about retelling the news story about the burning of the U.S. flag.
“Mom, they can protest, but they cannot burn the flag that men have died fighting for,” he says with glassy eyes. Where did he get this firm conviction that will carry him through life?
Inappropriate TV My son and I watched all nine seasons twice back-to-back of The Office the fall of his 7th-grade year. Neither of us got up to get a snack or go to the bathroom without pausing the show. This year, I threw him an Office birthday party complete with Office Trivia and a “That’s what she said” card…yes from his mom.
During quarantine, my daughter and I watched 16 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy together. Some nights we’d watch five episodes staying up past midnight even though work still loomed for me in the morning. She’d impatiently wait until the next evening when I could quit working so we could begin another mini-Grey’s Anatomy binge.
She’d take control of the remote and fast forward through the sex scenes in the opening of almost every episode. I’d feel a strong mom-guilt occasionally of “Should my 14-year-old be learning about orgasms from Grey’s Anatomy” then think she probably already knows, followed quickly by “It’s 2020, I just can’t.”
- Maturity There were lots of tantrums in our house when my kids were young. About half were from my son, and the other half were from me. Perhaps that’s why the middle school years were relatively drama-free for us. But one thing that helped is that as the kids mature, it becomes much easier to discuss the why.
- Why they need to do something or why we have to go here first or why they need to delay their gratification. It isn’t to say teens aren’t unreasonable, but the crazy tantrums are easier to deal with because they begin to understand the world more. Either that or I’ve calmed down with age.
- Friends My teenagers have friends that I enjoy having around the house. When they were younger, there would always be that kid who would boss my kid around or that kid that would be so loud that I’d have to go outside to get a break. Middle school kids talk, laugh, or play video games for hours. I love how happy my kids are with their friends, and I love watching them with their friends.
- Their Company I know parents shouldn’t be friends with their kids. But I honestly enjoy the company of my kids, and I want to hang out with them. They would never admit it, but I have a suspicion they like me too. How else do I explain if they could hang out in their room, but instead, they ask me to watch TV or go to the pool with them?
- The Best in my Kids I was so worried about middle school. I was sure there would be a ton of mean girls just waiting for my daughter, and she wouldn’t survive. Umm, no. There were zero mean girls, and she made the sweetest friends. She left behind some friends from grade school that were for the best. Boys didn’t become an issue for her in middle school.
My son thrived in middle school
I worried that my son would fail. Expectations in middle school are more strict than in grade school, especially for organization. In his last year in grade school, he brought home exactly zero school papers until the last day of school when he opened up his backpack, and it burst open with all the papers from the whole year. He surprised me by thriving in middle school.
No one expected much of him in grade school, so that’s what he lived up to. In middle school, he rose to the challenge. I’m no longer listening to what I “should be” worried about with my kids. I now look forward to high school. And maybe one day I’ll look forward to having an empty nest.
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