I will never forget the first morning in our new house. It must have been 6-7 am. We were waiting for our semi to arrive with our stuff. Lilly was crying. Mike and I were dragging her out the door to open gym volleyball lessons at the new middle school.
We were all overtired. Stressed. Going through a ton of emotions about leaving our Kentucky life behind and trying to figure out what in the world we were doing here in Georgia. I've never moved out of state before. With 4 little kids. One going into middle school. To say that I was (am!) clueless is an understatement!
Lilly is a no-drama kid. For the most part, she goes with the flow and really doesn't make a fuss about anything. (TRUST ME when I say, she got all of that out of her system as a toddler and in her early elementary years when she made a FUSS ABOUT EVERYTHING. EVERY. SINGLE. THING. Kinda like Ella does now.) We are at a place where she is easy-peasy to raise right now. Until... Mike and I forced her to go play volleyball at her new middle school. We quickly realized she still had all that fire down in her soul!
"I am NOT going. You can't make me go. I don't even like volleyball. I won't know anyone. I'm not doing it. I won't do it." She was furious with us. And I couldn't blame her. I think she had to be there by 8am. No middle school child wants to be anywhere, other than bed, at 8am. Mike and I were both both kinda in shock at the things she was saying and how adamant she was about NOT going. We hadn't seen that side of her in years, and I naively thought that was all behind us. (I know. I know. For the record, it's my first middle school rodeo!)
Mike and I knew she needed to go. We wanted her to make some friends or at least recognize some faces before school started. We wanted her to become familiar with the new school building. We wanted her to meet some teachers. We knew the exercise would be good for her. (We didn't know how competitive the team would be, and that was okay too.)
Mike took her, kicking and screaming, while I stayed at home with the 3 little kids and the movers. I felt terrible. Who wants to go into a middle school for the first time with their crying face on???? Especially a tough kid like her. Apparently, Mike didn't mind, because he made her go in and left her there.
When I went back to get her a few hours later, she was HAPPY! "Can you take me back tomorrow? I really liked it. I want to go back. "
She ended up going back to all of the open gym sessions and to tryout week. On the last 3 days of tryouts, they made cuts each day. She made it through the first day and got in the top 10 sixth graders for her school. We were so excited for her for getting that far. She ended up not making the team, as they only took 2 sixth graders for their school team.
I'm pretty sure I was more sad for her than she was. I think I feel all of my kids feelings more than they do. It's like feeling their pain and feeling your own sorrow all at once. She handled the news like a champ. "I like cross country, I'll just try out for that," was her response. No tears. No fuss. No pity party.
That's not really how she rolls, but *if* she would have cried and been sad, I would have cried with her. I'd have said, "I don't blame you for being sad. I'd be sad too!"
I am SO emotional about everything, I try to let them take the lead on their feelings, and go where ever they want to go with them. If they want to cry, we'll cry together. If they want to be tough, we'll be tough together. Every kid and every situation is different at our house, usually depending on how tired we are.
The very next Monday, she showed up for cross country tryouts. All this time, I am praying praying praying, God please put her where she needs to be. Not necessarily what I want, or what she wants, but YOUR will be done.
She ran and ran and ran and she MADE that team! We were all so happy for her. She's very determined, so I knew that eventually, she'd make a team. Or we'd put her on a rec team where "everyone" can play. I'm not a sporty spice by any stretch, but I'd rather her be active than at home watching TV and complaining of boredom.
And then FCA rolled around EARLY one Friday morning. 7am. A sweet new neighbor had offered to drive her. Much to my surprise, it was another screaming and yelling and hollering fest, mostly on MY part, mostly because of my PRIDE.
"HURRY UP! YOU CAN"T MAKE THEM LATE! WHAT IN THE WORLD IS TAKING YOU SO LONG????? GET MOVING! HURRY UP!" I yelled and yelled as I was trying to get her and the other 3 out the door for school.
And her... "I don't even want to do this! Why are you making me go? It's too early. Blah.Blah. Blah."
I finally got her shooed out the door, and guess what, she loved it too! She's already told me some of the best stories about guest speakers who have talked to them and GOOD GOOD lessons that she's learning while she is there on Friday mornings.
I guess all of this to say, it appears to me that Middle school really might be a "Challenging" phase of life, as much as a don't want to believe it's true. Fight the fights. Push them, even if kicking and screaming and hollering "I don't want to! You can't make me." Because you CAN. You KNOW where they belong. You know what they are good at. You know what they need. And maybe for a minute, they actually DO NOT know or remember what they LOVE! We knew Lilly loved volleyball. It wasn't easy dropping off a crying 6th grader to a middle school, but we agreed that the benefits would be worth it. We believe that our faith is EVERYTHING. Going to church or events like FCA aren't debatable. I knew she'd love Club 412, the FCA at their school once she got there. The "getting there" was the hardest part.
Push them. Pray for the them. Pray that God's will be done in their lives. Not making a team or getting chosen for a role could be God's provision for keeping them from a place that they didn't need to be at that time. Trust HIS will for them. Encourage them to persevere, even when things don't go as they (or you) wish.
Constantly talk to them. In the car. At the dinner table. Before school. At bedtime. Anytime that you have, use it. Try to be in the know. Let their friends come to your house. (THEY will help you get in the KNOW!)
We constantly tell her, "We are for you. We will do everything we can to help you be successful. We will do everything we can to meet your needs." When she has a test, I say, "I'm going to be praying for you. I know you'll do great." Through all of the highs and lows of her life, I want her to know, we are here for you, no matter what!
When she gets me all fired up, like she did the morning she was poking around and complaining about going to the FCA meeting, I apologized to her after school. "I am so sorry I yelled at you like a crazy person this morning. It was my pride that fueled my fire. I didn't want me or you to look like slackers in front of our new friends. I shouldn't have screamed so much, but, you really do need to speed up a little, and respect other people's time. " The next week, she got out the door, easy peasy, no hollering involved!
Push them where they need to be.
Persevere when things don't go as planned. When one door closes, know that another door will open.
Talk a lot. Ask a lot of questions. What they won't tell you, their friends might.
Give a lot of grace. Help them learn from their mistakes, and not be defined by them. "It's okay that you made a mistake. Now you know what to do the next time you're in that situation.
Ask for forgiveness when you scream like a crazy person. (Tell me you scream like a crazy person too!) Or maybe you don't. What's your secret????
Love them. Love them. Love them. Let it be clear in your actions and words that you are FOR them, You're on the same team, even when you're pushing them into places they think they don't want to go, or keeping them out of places that you know they shouldn't be.
In just 3 weeks of middle school, my eyes have already been opened to new challenges. She's seen and heard things I wish she hadn't seen and heard. She's learning and I'm learning how to navigate "middle school" together. I think the most important thing that we can do for her is give her a safe place to land each day. To talk. To pray. To encourage. To help. To love unconditionally. To build up. To extend Grace. To teach forgiveness. Mike and I will certainly NOT get it right all the time, but we will work together as a team to help her find her way.
Somehow I know she's going to thrive through the highs and lows and we're all going to find SO MUCH Joy in the Chaos!