Some mornings we drive to school without a single word being uttered amongst the three of us. We’re quiet, lost in our own thoughts, or maybe just sleep deprived and can’t find the energy to formulate a sentence, much less a conversation. Other mornings are filled with debate, and frustration can quickly mount on both sides in our short three and a half mile drive.
I respect those debates the same way I respect the need for silence, because it shows my boys are thinking…and growing…and trying to form their own opinions on matters. These things are much more important to me than whether we reach the same conclusion on a subject. In fact, we often ‘agree to disagree’ in order to end a conversation on a peaceful note.
This morning as we were chatting on the way to school it hit me once again that I really need to let the boys lead the conversation, to really listen to what they’re trying to tell me, because more often than not, there’s a bigger conversation hidden in the subtext of what’s being said.
Parenting the middle schooler…
As a parent of two middle schoolers, I feel it’s no longer my job to sway their opinion one way or the other when it comes to social issues at school, a video posted online, or a news story heard on the way to school. Sure, I’m still there to guide and direct them, when and if they need it, but I don’t want a mini replica of me or Stew walking around unconsciously spewing our beliefs. The world has one of each of us already and that’s plenty enough in my opinion.
What our world needs most is a new generation of thinkers and doers who can form their own opinions without years and years of generational beliefs weighing them down.
As a parent, however, it is my job to give our boys the tools they need in order to reach the best conclusion possible–a skill they will need long past the time that I have any influence over them.
It’s my job to teach them to think for themselves, to gather facts, to hear both sides, to put themselves in someone else’s shoes before forming their own opinion.
It’s my job as a parent to hear their concerns and to offer guidance when needed. To help them understand why people act and react in a certain way. And then it’s my job to walk away while they form their own opinion on the matter.
It’s my job to see the nonverbal cues manifesting fear, anxiety, exasperation, and more often than not, confusion.
It’s my job to give them the confidence to stand up for what they believe in, even when I don’t agree with it, but to do so with grace and compassion to those whose views they oppose.
It’s also my job to teach them that there are consequences for words and deeds alike so they should think before speaking and pause before acting.
Conversations with My Middle Schoolers
I usually value my boys’ privacy but I think it’s important to see and hear how 11 and 13 year olds are processing the crazy world we now live in. With these thoughts in mind I’ll be sharing posts called “Conversations with My Middle Schoolers” and “Life with G”.
These conversations aren’t deep or life altering by any stretch of the imagination. Sometimes they’re funny. Sometimes they come from so far out of left field I’m left wondering if it’s ok to have a glass of wine at 4 p.m. And sometimes the conversations are so sweet and endearing I’m sure the boys have been replaced by baby aliens. But those conversations are as rare as the solar eclipse so don’t wait with bated breath.
Maybe your kid is experiencing middle school in the same way as mine. Or maybe your kid is interpreting these years differently. In either case, these are conversations that parents need to share as we lean on each other for support. After all, middle school isn’t just hard on the kids. It’s also hard on the parents.