To my daughter, the first of six middle schoolers I will parent:
I watch you, as you cautiously navigate these waters that got way deeper seemingly overnight. Instead of running carefree and splashing around right at the waterline, having the time of your life, you are now in that part of the ocean where the sand is solid under your feet one second, and swept out from under you the next, leaving you going back and forth from standing confidently on your feet to gasping for air as the waves threaten to overwhelm you.
There are moments when I stand back in awe watching you, when you handle yourself with a grace and maturity that seems to have blossomed out of nowhere. My heart wants to burst, it’s so full of joy in the young lady you are becoming.
And there are moments when I am scratching my head in bewilderment at the tears that are filling your eyes for no apparent reason, seeing your frustration build and build as no one, not even you, understands exactly what is wrong. And my heart wants to break, it’s so full of compassion for the difficulty you’re having as you become that young lady.
Growing up is not easy. You are becoming a lady, but still very much a child. You want to be taken seriously, but you still have to be told to quit being too silly at the dinner table.
I see how desperately you long to be part of the adult conversations, and I see how crushed you are when they don’t know how to respond to your best efforts at grownup small talk.
You see, dear girl, this time in your life, this time that truly is “in-between” seems to you like it is taking forever. The days just inch by, and everything in your hopes and dreams seems so far away. But, in reality, this weird time of your life is just a tiny fraction of the whole. It happens so fast that most of us grownups don’t even remember when we, too, dealt with the agonies that you face on a daily–sometimes hourly–basis.
So sometimes, we hurt your feelings.
Sometimes we laugh at what you say, when you were trying to be serious, not funny.
Sometimes, we tune you out when you are telling us about the TV show you watched or the book you read, or the cute thing your baby cousin did, because, since it’s not that interesting to us we forget how interesting it is to you.
Sometimes, we refuse to allow you into our grownup world because to us, you’ve always been a child so it’s very hard to look at you any differently.
But I see you in those moments. I see the hurt in your eyes. I see your confusion when you think you’ve acted just right, only to be brushed off again.
So, I promise.
I promise to listen to you when you talk to me, even when you want to give me the line-by-line replay of last night’s episode of Dog with a Blog. Because if I listen to you in the silly things, hopefully you’ll trust me enough to come to me with the big things.
I promise to gradually allow your horizons to broaden, your privileges to expand, and maybe even let you sit at the grownup table every now and then. Because I know that you have to be given the opportunity to test your wings in safety before you are sent off to soar on your own.
I promise to respect you. To not post statuses on Facebook that complain about your attitude or your immaturity or your bad habits. To not publicize the things you say that I know my friends may laugh at, but that you would find horribly embarrassing when you get your own Facebook page and start scrolling through my past posts. To remember that while middle schoolers may be good subject material for a quick laugh among parents, those laughs are not without cost to your feelings. Because I know that middle schoolers are people, too.
And I promise to parent you. To guide you on this journey. To daily turn to God as the Source of all wisdom, and to point you toward Him as well. To give you advice when you want it, give you consequences when you need them, and give you love all the time. To be a safe place for you to be yourself when you’re worn out from a world that demands you conform to everyone else. Because I know that however grownup you feel or act, you still need a mom.
I know I’ll make mistakes. I know I’ll get frustrated with you and let it show. I know I’ll let you down and hurt those ever-so-fragile feelings. I know I’ll forget again, even after writing this, what it’s like to be twelve years old, not really a child but not grownup either. But I will love you with every breath. And I will lead you to the throne of grace every chance I get. Because in these confusing years of trying to figure out who you are and how you want to live, you need to know that Jesus is the One who will always be faithful, who will never let you down, and who navigated the age of twelve perfectly so that His record of righteousness could be offered to you through the Cross.
I love you, daughter. I love the lady you are becoming, and I love the little girl you still remain. I am so thankful to have a front-row seat to your beautiful, precious life.