Middle school is hard.
Socially. Academically. Emotionally. Financially. Physically.
Basically all of the ways.
The body is changing, the mind is changing, the expectations and responsibilities are changing.
All of that comes together in one growing-crazy-fast body, intermingles with hormones, and comes out in the form of tears. Or, if your offspring is male, probably fewer tears and more surly attitude featuring disgusted moans, exasperated sighs, exaggerated eye rolls, and silence. Plenty of intentional silence.
Basically, you want to punch him in the back and tackle hug him all at the same time, and you’re struggling because, apparently neither one of those is the exactly right thing to do.
Make note: there is no exactly right thing to do. But, there are some things to do that might help you and him enjoy this stint in the middle school mad house a bit more.
5 Parenting Tips for Talking to Your Teen Son*
1. Be understanding. Middle school is a time when basically everything is changing for your child. And, everyone knows, change is hard, especially when you’re sort of a little kid’s brain in a young man’s bod. They are starting to like chicks, like, a lot. Their bodies are becoming all Dude-ish. School and sports and extra curricular activities are starting to get real. Their hormones are making them crazy hungry, and crazy tired, and just plain crazy, crazy because even science is screwing with them. So try to be understanding of all of that. Think back to when you were pregnant, and how you cried and ate and slept and ate and slept and cried and told your husband he sucked because he didn’t get it basically all the time. It’s kinda like that.
2. Take a beat. Remember all of the above, and then think before you speak. They get sarcasm and innuendo now so you can’t lead with that. They know that maybe means no and later means never. Some things they say and do just to incite you, most things they say and do because thinking before they speak is out of the developmental realm of the average middle schooler. But, it’s not for you. As much as they push you to act like a middle schooler too, you can’t do that. You get to have to be the adult and that sometimes mean you say nothing so you don’t say something you’ll regret.
3. Give him plenty of opportunities to talk it out. They hate you but they love you; they want you to leave them alone but stay right there; they want to tell you everything and also nothing at all. Make yourself open and available to chat. And by open and available I mean, you listen, without judging or screaming or looking at your phone or opening Go-Gurts for the younger siblings who are jumping up and down and snotting on your knees. You have to give him time even if he just wants to spend it being quiet while laying his head in your lap and watching Sports Center. Jump on that and savor it baby.
4. Learn to read minds. Because the likelihood that your middle schooler is gonna come to you with a problem first is slim. Even good news usually gets to someone else before it gets to you. So you have to become adept at learning this new sort-a-guy living with you. And then asking the right questions. And waiting patiently for the answers. And respond correctly; ie, if you cry tears of joy every time he tells you something good he won’t want to tell you; Dudes don’t like crying, especially when it’s their mom shedding all of the tears. If all else fails, befriend the mom of the girl up the street; she’ll tell you most of what you need to know.
5. Don’t take any of his crap. Just because he’s bigger and taller and stronger and clearly more testosterone-y, he doesn’t get to be the boss. You are the boss. Always and forever. It’s your God given right for growing him in your body and then pushing him through a hole that seemed entirely too tiny for his 9lb baby head. But, you’re probably gonna have to remind him that the sickly looking mustache he’s growing does not mean he’s an adult. And, while a little emotional maturity and attentiveness to responsibility wouldn’t hurt, there will be no acting like it until you say so.
*I have no advice for moms raising daughters through puberty. All I know is that maybe she will hate you and if she does you’re gonna hear about it.