I was running this morning with another mother from my daughter’s school, and while we run, we talked about our 11-year-old daughters and their moods. After talking about them, we would talk about ourselves and our moods. We then talked about our interaction with our daughters, and how their stress about growing and our stress about them growing influence our relationship with them. Then we’ll go back to talking about ourselves, and our stress about them confronting change. Then back to talk about ourselves and so on.
Our daughters, these lovely and still very loving people, who were little kids just yesterday, are going to middle school next year. I wish that in the US, elementary school would go up until 6th grade, as it does in Ecuador. It is so intense for our daughters, who are just 11, and for ourselves to assume them moving into the quasi-teenage hood of middle school when probably neither them, nor us are ready to take that step.
Most public middle schools, at least in San Francisco, are huge; therefore kids are pushed into growing faster than what may be good for them, and to learn to be tough to survive the masses. If you add to this stress, the over exposure to media that many of the kids get, then you get kids stressing for what is coming to them and needing to grow up fast in a society that is pushing them to do so too soon.
Besides all the stress about the changes coming to them from moving to a new schools, their bodies are slowly starting to change and they are starting to feel their hormonal changes, coincidentally when us, their mom’s (at least in places where us moms had had our kids later), are starting to feel those changes too.
Here are a couple of things I’m trying to do, while we go through transitions. Would love any input in more things that could be done:
- Give myself a timeout and a place to meditate in peace when things are getting out of control for me with the kids.
- Give my daughter a space in the house that is only hers, I cannot interfere in and is where she can regroup.
- Give myself a mom and daughter time, without my younger, so that she and I have some time to talk and catch up.
- Respect the duality of girl/and preteen in her and not force neither. We went together for a mom and daughter time for the first time to the American Girl doll store. She had a certificate she got last Christmas from her grandma. While she looked at the last things she’ll probably ever buy for her doll, I looked at the American girl doll books about girls. American girl doll books are surprisingly great (The care and keeping of You 1, The care and keeping of You 2, Middle School, the Feelings Book and some more.).
- Acknowledge all my crazy feelings as they come: sadness, happiness, elation, depression and feel them along without judging them.
- Acknowledge my daughter’s crazy feelings as they come: sadness, happiness, elation, depression and let her feel them, without freaking out and judging them.
- Help her maintain her solid group of friends with whom she could talk to about her feelings.
- Maintain and interact with people with whom I could process my issues.
I must confess, that after dropping my daughter at school for her 5th grade camping trip, though I want to have some time for myself and sometime for a boy and mama time with my younger son, I still felt the urge to go and spy what she is doing. I know I shall resist that urge and give her a space to go and have her own time, test her freedom and comeback recharged.
While there are beautiful things ahead of us: like more grown up trips, museum visits and more to look forward to as they get older, I know there will be more challenges too when our daughters face teenage hood. Throughout these times and the ones to come, I’ll just have to keep on running.