There were times I wasn't sure we would make it. There was Mean Girls drama, there was re-defining communication, daddy drama, academic struggles, and sometimes, the only thing getting me through was knowing that in 3 years, I'll have a vacation from parenting. Just days after completing 7th grade, my daughter has transformed completely. And I like it.
During the Mean Girls drama, I was talking to someone at their after-school program who not only has a Masters in Child Development, but is also the mother of two now grown daughters. She reassured me that this sort of thing is absolutely normal at this age, and also that 7th grade is the absolute worst.
I may eat my words once I have a true teenager on my hands, but it makes sense to me that 7th grade is even harder. They're not teenagers yet, but the adults in their lives (teachers and parents) have larger expectations of them. At the same time, there are still so many limitations that it's clear to them that they're not trusted just yet. Their peers expect more, too.
My 12-year-old told me of one boy who gave her a hard time for wearing the same jacket every day, and he was sick of looking at it. Who knew boys cared about girls' fashion? She was also expected to listen to certain kinds of music, watch certain TV shows, and even wear her hair according to her friends' requirements!
Sure, it's easy for a grown-up to say, "you shouldn't care what they think" or the old "if your friends jumped off a bridge..." I tried it a few times, but the pain on my daughter's face was real and I simply couldn't dismiss it. After all, don't we all just want to feel secure in our place in the world?
On top of all that, I was struggling to figure out how to have a simple conversation with this person before me that bore some resemblance to my little girl, but one that had lost all sense of respect for others (namely, me). If we got through one conversation in these past few months without her whining, it was only because I had said yes to what she wanted! Either that or I wasn't asking anything of her.
Every request of mine seemed to agonize her. It was no longer acceptable, apparently, for her to be expected to set the table for dinner, or really, be helpful in any way without making it absolutely clear that she was doing it against her will. And pretty much everything I said was either offensive, lame, or otherwise unforgivable.
Yes, it's been a tough year. And since the day she finished school, she's been a pleasure!
She does what I ask, she talks instead of whines, she even gets up in the morning without me having to tell her 20 times! She may be taller and older, but she feels like my little girl again.
Now I just have to figure out a way for my younger daughter to go from 6th to 8th grade and bypassing 7th altogether.
Originally posted on LA Moms Blog, June 3, 2010.