Look for the Rainbow

“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).

Dear Tall,
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,

Mom

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3 comments on “Look for the Rainbow

  1. First, that made me cry.
    Second, I can’t wait to see you guys next weekend.
    And third, I couldn’t help but think of the following passage written by a pregnant Anne Lamott 25 years ago, which still rings true to me:

    “…no, the worst thing, worse even than sitting around crying about that inevitable day when my son will leave for college, worse than thinking about whether or not in the meantime to get him those hideous baby shots he probably should have but that some babies die from, worse than the fears I have when I lie awake at 3:00 in the morning (that I won’t be able to make enough money and will have to live in a tenement house where the rats will bite our heads while we sleep, or that I will lose my arms in some tragic accident and will have to go to court and diaper my son using only my mouth and feet and the judge won’t think I’ve done a good enough job and will put Sam in a foster home), worse even than the fear I feel whenever a car full of teenagers drives past my house going 200 miles an hour on our sleepy little street, worse than thinking about my son being run over by one of those drunken teenagers, or of his one day becoming one of those teenagers— worse than just about anything else is the agonizing issue of how on earth anyone can bring a child into this world knowing full well that he or she is eventually going to have to go through the seventh and eighth grades.

    The seventh and eighth grades were for me, and for every single good and interesting person I’ve ever known, what the writers of the Bible meant when they used the words hell and the pit. Seventh and eighth grades were a place into which one descended. One descended from the relative safety and wildness and bigness one felt in sixth grade, eleven years old. Then the worm turned, and it was all over for any small feeling that one was essentially all right. One wasn’t. One was no longer just some kid. One was suddenly a Diane Arbus character. It was springtime, for Hitler, and Germany.

    I experienced it as being a two-year game of “The Farmer in the Dell.” I hung out with the popular crowd, as jester, but boy, when those parties and dances rolled round, this cheese stood alone, watching my friends go steady and kiss, and then, like all you other cheeses, I went home and cried. There we were, all of us cheeses alone, emotionally broken by unrequited love and at the same time amped out of our minds on hormones and shame.

    Seventh and eighth grades were about waiting to get picked for teams, waiting to get asked to dance, waiting to grow taller, waiting to grow breasts. They were about praying for God to grow dark hairs on my legs so I could shave them. They were about having pipe-cleaner legs. They were about violence, meanness, chaos. They were about The Lord of the Flies. They were about feeling completely other. But more than anything else, they were about hurt and aloneness. There is a beautiful poem by a man named Roy Fuller, which ends, “Hurt beyond hurting, never to forget,” and whenever I remember those lines, which is often, I think of my father’s death ten years ago this month, and I think about seventh and eighth grades.

    So how on earth can I bring a child into the world, knowing that such sorrow lies ahead, that it is such a large part of what it means to be human?”

    Love to all,
    Lin

  2. Lorna says:

    Brilliant, @Linda, thank you for sharing this.

  3. Ericka bean says:

    Nicely said mom! Glad to hear bubble is out! Special special girl there the world is at her fingertips!

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