Surviving the Middle Years

After reading the recent post by Kathy about picking a preschool/Kindergarden, I had a startling realization. Short of divine intervention, that part of my parenting life is over. No more watching my children enter a classroom for the first time hoping they don’t eat crayons before first impressions have been solidly established. No more selecting first day outfits. They now have their own style and opinions on what to wear. I’m the proud owner of 4th and 5th graders, which offers up new and terrifying parenting obstacles to hurdle.

My Big Kids
My Big Kids

After those realities settled in, I decided someone should write a similar blog on what it’s like to navigate the elementary to middle school transition, and because my kids are the oldest of all the Jax Moms Blog contributors, that somehow makes me the “expert.” Well crap!

When I found out I was pregnant the first time, my husband and I didn’t have friends with children. We discovered the best bottles and diapers after more puke and diaper leaks than we ever expected. We packed up the diaper bag headed to restaurants with a toddler and infant in tow because there was no one to tell us that children aren’t suitable for public at certain ages. We found our own way, and I’m happy to say, both kids survived.

We are now blessed with friends who’ve been there done that in the world of Tweeners (what a horrible title). I watched those friends struggle with various decisions that come with kids getting older. Ask any parent for advice about the middle school years and you get the same look – a mixture of confusion and sympathy. They want to help, but they just can’t because in reality, there are no cut and dry answers. You just do the best you can and pray that all of you survive.

Before I depress those of you who are both close and far from this time in your lives, there are a few realizations I can share. I will approach this with humor, but don’t assume the issues aren’t very real just because I decided to laugh in the face of adversity. It’s my coping mechanism.

My new parenting motto learned in Savannah
My new parenting motto learned in Savannah

Like vs. Love – I don’t even like Middle Schoolers. Does that mean I will dislike my children for a few years? At times, yes! You are free to dislike them as well. Middle school aged kids can be really annoying, and I doubt my kids will be any different. They’ll think they know everything when they don’t. The stresses and changes they’ll deal with will make them difficult to be around. They’ll push their limits because of the “knowing it all.” I will still love them, but I might not like them.

Information Overload – As my kids get older, they become more aware of the things that weren’t previously on their radar. Just the other day, McKenzie had a complete meltdown about our digital footprint. Her exact words? “Way to be an author, Mom! Your writing has put our family in danger!” While I appreciate how successful she thinks I am, being a self published author doesn’t equate to getting stalked by paparazzi. This is far from a legitimate concern, however it’s an example of how she’s becoming more aware of the things of this world but is not quite old enough to put them into perspective.

Sex – I cringed just a little bit (or a lot) just typing the word. On the day I began writing this blog, I pulled up in the carpool line to see my son, the dutiful school patrol, dancing in front of a group of girls, and I had three thoughts: 1 – He may think he’s got moves like Jagger, but he does not. 2 – He should be fired from school patrol. 3 – While the girls laughed with mild interest, there will come a day when mild interest turns to hormonal young girl interest. I’m not ready. How much do you tell them? When do you tell them? After extensive research, I believe the answer is, “it depends.” That’s just great. Thanks to all the real experts for sorting that one out for me…

A picture from one of the "best days of her life."
A picture from one of the “best days of her life.”

Whiplash – The constant mood swings are exhausting. 3:00pm – “This is the best day ever!” 5:30pm – “I had the worst day of my life!” I live each day wondering what land mine I might step on.

All Moms are Uncool – If I like it, my daughter hates it. If I say it, it must be wrong. I’ve tried to work the system by “liking” things I don’t want her to buy. She’s too smart. At least my son still listens to my opinion for now. I have told McKenzie that she’s forcing me to make Ethan my favorite. Again, she’s too smart for my mind tricks.

I could write so much more but just this has driven me to a bottle of wine (or two). I must remind myself that many have gone before me and lived to tell about it, this too shall pass, and all the other cliches. In reality, I have great kids. At times, their actions make me wonder what alien has taken residence in their bodies, but the good heavily outweighs the bad, and I wouldn’t trade being their mom for the world.

Check back in September after the first day of middle school, and I’ll let you know if I’ve changed my stance…

Middle Years

Christie Pettus is a full time working wife and mother living her suburban cul de sac dream in Orange Park, Fl. She is Mom to two awesome teenagers, McKenzie and Ethan, who have come to accept that certain parts of their lives will be blogged about, so they should act accordingly. As graduates of the University of Florida, she and her husband Ryan can be found rooting on their alma mater every chance they get including the more obscure sports. LaCrosse anyone? When she’s not judging her kids' questionable teenage choices, she can be found hiding in a room buried in a good book or writing, editing, and dreaming about being a full-time author.

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