January 5, 2017
Happy New Year! I hope that your break was both restful and enjoyable. I treasured every minute with my family, even the family meetings. Maddy came home Friday, December 15th to enjoy a much-needed break from the regiment of college academics. Her re-entry to life at home provided us with a family first, a family growth opportunity, and a time of reflection for me.
Apparently, parenting an adult child (huh, I just noticed that oxymoron) comes with an entirely new set of parenting firsts. Let me tell you, I found them all to be quite exciting. Several emojis fit here. I’ll let you decide which ones you imagine.
To be clear, Maddy grew out of childhood long ago. Yet, upon her return from school, Paul and I found ourselves wanting to revert to caring for her as though she was still in middle school. As you can imagine, Maddy found this to be completely awesome…sarcasm intended. We afforded her the opportunity to attend school in another state. She completed her semester on the Dean’s List. She managed all of her affairs with ease. She earned an opportunity to become a Peer Jack Student Mentor. But we expected her to be our child again. Epic Parent Fail.
Additionally, Maddy expected her brother to be the same seventh grader she started carting around in her car when she was a sophomore. At almost 6 feet tall, you can imagine this is no longer the case. With only 6 months remaining until he gets his license, he currently drives us everywhere. His new independence left Maddy disappointed and sad. These changes led to several family meetings as we navigated the changes in our household. We grew a great deal over the past two weeks, though I am sure this growth is far from complete.
I reflected on the changes in our family and the challenges these changes provided. Every stage in our children’s lives provides us with growth opportunities as parents. Sometimes we adjust quickly and with ease. Other times, the adjustments bring frustration, heartache, and challenges. Parenting middle school students offers all kinds of excitement. Over the years, I realized that my biggest struggles as a parent generally started because I hadn’t adjusted my parenting to the current needs of Maddy and/or Hunter.
The second semester provides an opportunity for further growth and development for middle school students. Often this growth comes at an exponential rate. At times it seems as though they change over night. They do. As you begin to see even further changes in your middle school student this semester, I encourage you to reflect on rather than react to these changes.
I make lists of the changes that I see in Hunter and Maddy in my journal…well, at least when I’m not blindsided by them. Then, depending on which child is demonstrating the change, I set a date to spend time with them. I share with them the changes I am noticing in them. I ask them how I can support them. I share with them the negatives that I have seen because of the changes. I remind them that as their mom, I can’t ignore the negative or allow it grow. I ask them for suggestions on how they would like to be approached and corrected. I share that I will do my best to respect their ideas. However, I remind them that ultimately, they have been entrusted to me. As their mom, I will always hold the final word because I am accountable for them.
I share these thoughts in hopes of encouraging you as you walk the new semester. I hope that as you navigate the next 4 months of school this will serve to support you as your student continues to become the young adult they are intended to be. Having a plan in place has helped our family maintain healthy relationships. It does not mean we completely avoid emotional overreactions, outbursts, and teenage drama. But it does allow us the opportunity to regroup quickly.
I apologize for the length of this letter. Who am I kidding? These letters are always long. I know what you’re thinking. This one is exceptionally lllloooonnnngggg. In my defense, I’ve had 2 weeks off.
Honored to Serve You All,
Food For Thought: 3 Causes of Low Self-Esteem in Teens…and What to Do about It
Additional Food For Thought: What Parents of Early Teen Boys Need to Know