8th Grade Angst

I spot her walking toward my car and her hunched over shoulders informs me that today something has gone terribly wrong. Is it 8th-grade volleyball? My sweet-natured, growing girl is moving schools and risking being seen these first days of practice. She begins to cry within seconds of reaching the safety of the car.  

“What’s wrong?” I ask.

“Everything, nothing... I don’t know!” says my girl.

“Was someone mean? Did the coach single you out?” I ask.

“No, not directly. No one is talking to me. No one is making an effort. The coach had to teach me to do something I was doing wrong. I tripped. No one helped me up. I want to go back to my old school. At least I had friends there!” my girl explains with frustration.

Internally, I’m reeling.  

We drive in silence. We decide to buy her new size of volleyball shoes later, not now. My words are stuck like peanut butter on the roof of my mouth. There isn’t enough praise to pour over her that will reach her heart.  

After we arrive at home, I call a friend who asks good questions about what’s going on for me behind the disappointment and pain of watching her break down. I finally realize I’m terrified to be wrong about her switching schools.

WHAT IF I’M WRONG, AGAIN?

In my own arrogance, I have believed I can keep my children safe from the stages of painful growth. What is worse is that I have been somewhat successful. I’ve unknowingly not allowed for the small bumps to hit my children. Now they are experiencing larger impact.

Am I willing to let her fall down, reach out to peers that don’t reach back, and risk being missed by peers and teachers? I must and it’s awful to stay in the bind of Middle School judgments.  

The day moves along. She’s ready to go back tomorrow. God, I hope some 13-year-old decides to speak to her today or maybe pass the ball? She doesn’t need much hope right now to hold onto. I hope that someone offers a portion of connection.  

There is an agony to being a good mother today. I want to rescue her. I really wanted to be rescued when I was 13 and enduring the gossip of my small town around my parents’ divorce. Seeing my child in the pain of Middle School is offering me a chance to see myself at her age.

And it hurts.

We both need rescue and to develop resiliency. I needed more help than I received. She needs more resiliency than she has had. We both need kindness.


Growing up takes a long time. For my daughter and myself.

by Shandee Mikesh


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