Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Getting Schooled

She comes to me crying. She's eleven and tender-hearted. There's a lot of crying these days.

"I-I am not . . . COOL!," she sobs.

Oh, middle school, how we've longed for your arrival.

You would think being the uncool, awkward student that I once was would help me soothe her, but I find that I am really very dreadful at the job. I try to offer her my experiences, my sympathies, but I find she doesn't want them any more than I wanted them from my mother when I was in sixth grade.

She begins the laundry list of why she isn't cool enough: she doesn't have a cell phone, she doesn't have her own computer, she doesn't get to stay up late and watch prime time television, she can't listen to music by certain popular artists.

It's hard to hear that our decisions for her cause her to feel left out, but those decisions remain firm. There is no way in hell that I would encourage my child to listen to the lyrics of some of these songs.

She calls me strict. So strict, in fact, that I could run a military school. She says I treat her like a baby.

I tell her that she is no baby, but she is still my baby. She is still my baby, I will do my very best to keep the trashiest parts of the world away from her.

Because here's the deal: the trashiest parts of the world are out there and they are gunning for her. The world will come no matter what, but before it does I want her to know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that she is loved, she is cherished, she belongs to something greater and bigger than her classroom, she is better than the trashiest parts of the world.

She cries that even the eight year old next door listens to this music and stays up until 10 pm. I trot out the tired, old parental line: "Well, I am not her parent. I can only do what I think is best for my own kids."

It doesn't make her feel better.

I mention the alternatives I have held out to her before: a different school, home school. But she is wise enough to know that the grass always seems greener, no matter where you are standing.

I am on my way out the door, and our conversation veers into yelling and hard, hurt feelings, and before I can get home and apologize, she has gone to sleep.

Before she slept, though, she had a long, calm talk with her father. Her beloved, calm, even-keeled dad, and I thank God for the thousandth time for giving my children this father.

(Because NEWS FLASH, WORLD: Kids NEED dads! Just ask my daughter.)

In the morning, she finds me in my room and we stumble to each other and apologize and cling and whisper before school.

I send her out the door happy, but I wonder for how long. And I know that this is really just the beginning in many ways. We are both being schooled.


  1. That is such a hard one! All I can say is, eventually they do see the wisdom, and it won't take as long as you think. Soon she will see that the cool kids don't stay cool for long. Something else that's "in" will come along and they will be down in the dirt with the dogs.

  2. Oh man. I am so not ready for these kinds of things, and I know it is starting at younger and younger ages. I too will need the calm and wisdom of my husband to help us navigate those troubling times. Thank God for prayer! (and our Blessed Mother, who surely raised the most uncool kid that went on to change the world)

  3. Hi, I stumbled across your blog and was intrigued by your apocalyptic pudding stash, so I started following you. But in blog world, that's OK, right? Hopefully this admission is not going to result in a restraining order. Of course I'm dying to know what music she can't listen to. OK, maybe dying is a slight exaggeration, but let's say I'm curious? The good news is, the reasons she lists for being uncool are things she wants, external things, not things about herself. She doesn't feel uncool because she's got a giant wart on her nose or a Bozo the Clown bald patch. So that's good. If she had her own computer and a cell phone and could watch "Family Guy" every night and listen to Lady Gaga describe disco sticks (Am I close?), soon she would be uncool because she doesn't have an iPad and an iPhone full of apps and can't listen to 2 Live Crew and watch "True Blood". OK, maybe not 2 Live Crew, but my point is that there's always something to covet. I covet my friends' small feet, and what am I going to do about that? No iPhone app in the world is going to squeeze me into a size 7, and that's all there is to it. Uncool.

  4. Oh Aimee, I am at such a loss for words of wisdom on this one! Since the school year just started, this is hopefully a situation that will work out as she settles into her class? I so don't look forward to the things that come up with this age but will need to handle it one day, right? I do agree with Patsy though- at least her worries are about things and not about herself. And I think it is awesome that her dad was able to work some magic...it doesn't just have to be mom! It can be dad, an aunt, a cousin...sometimes another perspective is just the thing you need.

  5. Middle school is hard. My husband teaches eighth grade and while he loves it he does talk about how middle school kids are at a difficult age.
    It is hard to know that choices we make as parents can make life "uncool" for our kids. I don't have a middle school age kid yet but I do get the "why can they do that and we can't?" already and I revert back to "becauase those are our rules." It works for now.

  6. Sounds like you are doing exactly what you need to be doing, what you believe is best for her, and that makes you a wonderful mom, even if it sometimes makes you feel like a terrible one.

  7. Amen, Aimee. For the part about the sticking to it, because it's good for her to know she's loved. And the part about needing dads. and, well, everything.

    And Patsy, I think being intriqued by an apocalyptic pudding stash might be the BEST reason to follow a blog.

    (btw, is anyone else googling lady gaga disco sticks??)

  8. I just remember being this age...oh, how I wish I could skip over it for my daughter.

    So many good points in the comments too...that she's just focused on material things, not herself. That even if you give in, it will just be something else even more extreme next month. You ladies are all so wise...can I come live near you when my own kids get to this age?

    You have such a wonderful, strong view of it. I am going to bookmark this post for when my daughter is 11. Your daughter is so lucky to have loving, caring, confident parents like you...and she'll realize it by the time she's 20 or so, right?

  9. Oy, I am dreading the tween years. At only 7, our second grader says his friends call him a baby because he only gets to watch baby shows. So without letting up on our morals, we are trying to incorporate wholesome big kid shows for him. Most of them are from when we were kids because I just don't like anything out there. I feel like oldest children feel the tug at becoming adults much more than the rest of the litter. Hang in there, and keep giving us moms more encouraging and real posts like this :)

  10. Thanks, MamaK. I'm glad we agree on the importance of pudding. Best not to ask about disco sticks, I think.

  11. Boy, this is a toughie and I sure feel for you. We were the Evil Parents who made sure our daughter was the Very Last One In Her Whole Class Without a Cell Phone. The horror! We caved for her 13th birthday.

    But as so many have said, it's not your "stuff" that makes you cool.

  12. Continue to be firm.
    Continue to love her.
    Continue to provide her with opportunities to be "good" at stuff.
    ....and peace to you and all mothers of middle school kids.

  13. Anonymous4:53 AM

    This is tough, but hang in there. (that seems so inadequate in the way of advice). You will both get through these times and remember, you have friends saying some extra prayers for all of you.
    Mirabella Mom

  14. I usually don't comment in my combox because I don't know how many people come back and read them, but I appreciate all the positive feedback!

    Patsy: If you decided to follow me after seeing the apocalyptic pudding stash, then I consider you one of my tribe. In answer to your question, you were pretty much right on the money. The music off limits is mostly stuff like Katy Perry, Lady GaGa, Ke$ha, and the like. I refuse to encourage my daughter to sing along to blatantly sexual lyrics even if she doesn't know what they mean.

    I am so thankful that so many of you brought up the point about her feeling this way about "things" and not her actual self. I think part of the problem is that she is in a very small class and she has been with the same kids since kindergarten. They've kind of fallen into a couple different groups, as kids will do, and none of these particular groups resonate with her. She's not a "sporty girl" but neither is she a "girly girl" and there really is no "bookish girl who loves to ride horses and write piano music" group.

    Her talk with Rob really helped her so much. Again, I admit I am not the cooler head of the two of us. As evidenced by my daughter saying, "I hope I don't hurt your feelings Mom, but sometimes Daddy is so much easier to talk to."

    Yep, I've noticed that. :)

    Thanks for the support, my friends.

  15. Go check out "Packaging Girlhood". It was written by a couple of educational psychologists who have counseled tween and teen girls for years. I've got three little girls, and I really appreciated some of the thoughts on how marketing limits the choices our girls think they have. As with any book, take what works and leave the rest, but there was a section that reminds me of your comment about your daughter not being the 'sporty' type or the 'girly' type. It talks about how media has simplified girl types to make marketing clear, but rarely do the rich, varied personalities of our children fit into those stereotypes.
    I'm hoping (*alert* the following is wishful thinking and not proven advice) I can teach my girls that 'cool' is just another way of saying "I like that (you)" and not an actual state of being. Feelings will always get hurt, but I'd rather they not waste their breath chasing illusions (or creating them, for that matter). There is way too much good stuff in the world that is solid.


Go ahead and say it. You know you want to.