“How was Tall’s first year of middle school?”
“Horrible,” is often my standard reply.
Like many parents, I had hoped the move from elementary to middle school would be a smooth one. An infusion of new people. A new academic experience. She was so excited for middle school. This year was anything but great for a variety of complicated social and physical reasons, some out of her control. I have no professed expertise in the life of middle schoolers beyond surviving it myself, but below, I reflect on the year’s experiences. I realize I cannot take away the pain, but maybe my letter will give her some perspective on the year and give her some thoughts to consider, or even ignore (she is almost 13, after all).
Sixth grade is done. Not the year you were dreaming of back in early September but you made it. I am very proud of you. I know it hasn’t been easy. It seems a cloud hovers above you, but like all storms, these clouds will blow through.
While it may not be much comfort now, it will get better. Friendships, while never free of bumps, will get easier to navigate and many will require much less hand-wringing than they do now. Don’t get me wrong, even as a grown up, being left out from social events or feeling once solid friends slip away, often without explanation, is painful.
Try not to spend much time or energy on those who work to bring you down with their hurtful words or actions. Flock to the people who make you feel good about being you.
Take a chance and reach out to someone, even it is a repeated effort. It’s awkward sometimes. Wave at them again. Maybe they didn’t see you the first time. Ask again if they want to hang out. Maybe they really were busy. Some people may be feeling quiet and unsure of themselves and your friendly action may be just what they need.
Try to give people the benefit of the doubt when they behave in an unexpected way. Sometimes there is an explanation (a distraction, a bad day) for a behavior. Resist the temptation to go to a negative conclusion. Gather the facts. Talk to people involved directly. In person. So much is lost in texts and on social media like Instagram. And yes, sometimes, you just need to let it go. Everybody after all is working out the best way to navigate the social world that is middle school. Mistakes will be made. Words misspoken.
Try new things; this is the time to explore new interests which will open your world to new people and maybe new passions. It might mean pursuing different activities than your friends, but that might be just what you need.
I am a broken record on this one, but it’s not what you say, it is how you say it. Your voice is one that deserves to be heard. Share how you’re feeling. Ask those questions you have. Be confident, yet kind.
While it is tempting, and many have inquired, we will not be putting you in a protective bubble. Admittedly, you’ve been through a lot physically. Continue to pursue your loves of soccer and skiing as long as they bring you joy. Make your body strong to lessen the likelihood of injury but be not afraid. There is an impressive collection of braces, slings, corrective boots and crutches in our basement. And beyond that, we know some amazing doctors.
I wish I could say heartbreak is done. Emotional and physical challenges most certainly are again in your future. You will learn a lot from all of these experiences, especially as you rise back up. But remember that this year doesn’t define you. You are stronger than you realize. And most importantly know that you are loved by many. Some storms bring rainbows. Always look for that rainbow.
With much love,