My Daughter is Starting Middle School and Neither of Us are Ready for It
My daughter and I have this little thing we have been doing for as long as I can remember. We blow a kiss to each other, then catch the other’s kiss in the air, tilt our heads, and hold it against our hearts while smiling big. It might sound a little cheesy to you, but it’s actually very sweet. It’s like our little silent signal to one another that says “I’m right here and I love you and I always will.” We have done it thousands of times – in crowded rooms, across school auditoriums, in the car while driving away. Sometimes she even texts the exchange to me in emojis (thank goodness for copy-and-paste simplifying the process of sending it back). Last week we were at Six Flags and we did it on a roller coaster! It’s very symbolic of our close relationship, and it’s very special to us both. I cannot picture a day where I will blow her a kiss that goes uncaught or unreturned. But that day might be coming sooner than I think.
My little girl just graduated elementary school. While I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I no longer have a child in elementary school (and one starting high school too, but that’s another story), she is about to reach a major milestone in her young life: Middle School.
The middle school years are tough. I remember my own junior high experience in a good amount of painful detail. You’re struggling with your own identity while trying desperately to fit in. You’re in a new, bigger place, with new, bigger kids, and new, bigger problems. The teachers don’t want to hear about your recess drama and they certainly won’t be bending down to tie your shoes or letting missing homework assignments slide with a note from Mom. It’s a huge adjustment for a 10-11 year old. There is no other institution in their lives where they will enter and leave as two such completely different people. I don’t know about you, but I’d happily go back to any other time in my young life than those awkward middle school years.
While many kids her age seem to be in a rush to grow up, my daughter is still playing with fidget toys and watching cartoons and frequently off in her own little lala land of make believe. She’s still very innocent and at times even a little babyish for her age (which I am fine with – I already have one moody teenager and I’m in no rush to have another).
I often see other kids her age growing up way too fast. I’m never one to judge, as every child grows at their own pace. But when I see other young girls her age dressed to appear older, going out on dates and making inappropriate TikTok videos, I feel some relief that our biggest fights are usually over her stealing my lotions to make slime.
As the first day of school approaches, I am reminded that some of that sweetness, that seemingly angelic innocence, will soon begin to wear away and be replaced by preteen angst. It’s hard to picture in such a sweet kid but it’s literally science. In fact, I watched a Netflix documentary recently about the teenage brain that confirmed all the changes and difficulties she will soon be facing daily. Peer pressure, risk-taking, poor impulse control, to name a few. The combination of hormones and neuroscience pretty much guarantee that someday I will send an air-kiss her way that will go unreturned.
If this were to happen- it would break my heart, admittedly. My baby won’t be a baby anymore! The thought is so depressing. What I have to remind myself is that she is still going to be MY baby. The middle school years will be tricky but I’ll stay strong knowing my baby is still in there somewhere. Someday – maybe at her high school graduation, maybe at her college graduation, maybe not until her wedding day – she will return my kiss in a crowded room again.
Or maybe I’ll get lucky and she will never stop in the first place.
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