Middle school

Dear Parents: It’s okay if you’re making it up as you go along

Eric and I are parenting two kids in middle school, so basically we’re making stuff up as we go along. Minute by minute, we literally have no idea of what we’re doing.

This is no different than any other stage of parenting we’ve experienced thus far, but what IS different is that the kids now know this. They no longer trust everything we say or blindly believe we’re geniuses who happen to share a house with them.


To be fair, I can no longer help with their math, band homework, or technology. Their lack of faith in me is sort of justified and it’s not like I’ll ever understand negative integers, so I’m going to have to live with it.

Technology and algebra aside, recently Eric and I have bumped into a few situations where our guesses and hopes aren’t enough to cut it. We’ve had to share our concerns with friends (who all have kids the same ages as ours) and ask what they’d do in our situation.

Now, we picked our advisors wisely. These friends have all known us for two decades and are parenting with the firm desire to raise children who love God, know the Bible, and one day go out into the world to make a difference for the Kingdom. Their insight was very, very helpful.

Turns out there is no easy answer

But this is what I’m learning– their insights are gleaned from their own situation. Every family has a particular dynamic that comes from a bunch of individual personalities jammed into one living situation. Every family has different goals, strengths and weaknesses, and hopes for their kids. We’ve chosen different educational options and houses of worship.

This means every family gave us a different answer. This isn’t what I wanted– I wanted one clear, correct answer. A foggy, stressful situation became even foggier.

Until this morning, when I realized there isn’t any such thing as one clear, correct answer in parenting and the fog suddenly dissipated. I’m responsible for these two kids I have. I have to choose their schools, church, and neighborhood because that’s what parents do. What our friends do is great and helpful and often helps me keep my sanity, but in the end, Eric and I get to choose.

We all get to choose

And so do you. You know your kids. You know your family’s needs and hopes and strengths. So you get to choose what’s best for your kids at the end of the day. Pray over it, make the best decision you can, and rest in the fact there will always be a lot of ways to raise a great kid.

Your friends will do some things better than you. Your friends will do some things worse than you. Their kids might turn out great or really terrible. In the end, all our kids will make decisions we have no control over anyway, which means that we can parent them until the end of time and still get totally wonky results. We’re dealing with humans here, not robots.

We’re all making it up as we go (even our kids!), so let’s just do the best we can, support one another, and enjoy long talks over the table where we confess that we have no idea of what to do next.

Mothers of Middle Schoolers: New Game, New Rules

Our daughter is in middle school now, which means we’re playing at a whole new level in the parenting game. The new game comes with new rules, rules our beloved firstborn spelled out for me at dinner the other night.

Earlier in the day I’d received an email from a friend who volunteers extensively at the school, asking if I’d be interested in coming in for career day this spring. Apparently the students are interested in learning about what it means to be a writer, and while I’m far from an expert, Stephen King rarely makes appearances at small Midwestern schools. I shot back an email agreeing to be the token writer of the career day, and thought nothing of it.

Until dinner that night, when I suddenly remembered. “Hey, Audrey. I’m coming to your school this spring,” I said.

Her beautiful blue eyes did something very adult like– they widened in horror then narrowed in confusion while her marvelous brain calculated the damage this was about to inflict on her reputation. “Why?! What are you doing?”

“Career Day? Apparently you guys have Career Day?”

“Yes, but…oh poop. I shouldn’t have checked the writer box, should I?”

“Guess not, but you weren’t the only one. I think other kids want to learn about writing, too. That and a lot of other jobs.”

She thought this over for a moment while she chewed. “Okay, I’ll give you some rules. You can come, but you have to follow the rules.”

I was offended. “What?! I’ve been helping at your school since you were in kindergarten. I know all these kids!”

Career day rules


But my protests got me nowhere. She still dictated the rules:

  1. No telling people how cute they are.
  2. No telling people how cute she was in the bathtub. (Side note: she was really, really cute in the bathtub. She had these adorable little squishy buns.)
  3. No talking to people under twenty-seven years old.
  4. No doing little dances in front of anyone, including shaking the hiney. (Her dad piped up at this point, asking, “What about kicking?” Audrey said, “What do you mean?” He said, “You know how she does those kicks.” ((I tend to do little kicks when I am having fun.)) Audrey sighed. “No kicking, either.”)
  5. No mentioning these rules while speaking.
  6. Don’t be boring.

I pointed out that I was writing the rules down specifically so I could blog about them, but this doesn’t bother her at all. She feels her peers might not read blogs from mothers, so I guess this is safe.

Then I asked how I could be not-boring if I had to follow all the rules. Her eyes narrowed to dangerous slits at this point, and I suddenly had an image of how I would have felt if my parents had been invited to speak at school when I was in middle school. My father has a tendency to…how can I put this delicately…say anything that will be funny or shocking. (Dad, if you’re reading this, I reference Thanksgiving Dinner of 2014 as evidence.)

At the thought of my father standing up in front of my friends and firing off whatever came to mind, a wave of compassion soaked my teasing. I sobered up. “Okay, okay. I’ll follow the rules and I won’t embarrass you.” She seemed relieved and that was the end of it.

For now, at least. I will do my best to not embarrass her in April, but heaven only knows how this will actually go. At least I have time to memorize the expectations.