The exact center of the balance beam…

August 22, 2009

…is where I’m trying to keep our daughter right now.  Our MIDDLE school daughter.  Oh, just oh.  I so acutely remember those middle years — the ever-changing body, the ever-growing mind, the bangs that wouldn’t curl right.  It was the eighties, after all.

Middle.  It implies center of course, and is there a less centered time in any of our lives than middle school?  Unless you count self-centered, of course.  And I don’t mean that as a criticism.  It takes a good bit of naval (or is it navel — which one is boats and which one is belly buttons?) gazing to haul oneself through to adulthood.

We’ve had a traumatic day here at che K.  If you are absent a middle-schooler in your life, it may be hard to grasp the very hugeness of feelings that can collide with what might seem like fairly innocuous circumstances.  This morning we found out that Abby’s best school friend won’t be in any of her classes after all, as we had thought on Wednesday, due to a scheduling glitch for her friend that required a change.  The guidance counselor and the principal were apologetic, as they had really, really tried to keep the girls together a bit.  And the girls will be walking to and from school together, and will share lunch together as well, so all is not lost.  But it’s been enough to send my girl teetering a bit, and by this age, I can’t do anything for her but spot her on the most difficult tricks.  Talk her through.  Assuage the gnawing fear she’s fighting.  Encourage her to focus on the positives.

She’s, well, we all think our own kids are super-special snowflakes of course, but she’s pretty damned amazing, I think.  She’s taking eighth grade language arts and algebra this year.  She has what the guidance counselor refers to as an “unuuuuuusual” schedule.  (Tim suggested that we just call it weird, as that’s more value-neutral than unusual.)   She’s an unusual kid in any number of ways (her most recent fascination has been, I kid you not, horse genetics — I’ve learned more about that than I ever needed to know), and the greatest thing, the God-sent thing, is that she’s getting pretty comfortable in her own skin.  I think, I hope, that we’re getting her to embrace unusual, quirky, herself.

But as much as she knows, as much mental horsepower she has at the ready, she’s still only eleven.  Today, at the nadir of this whole my-friend-isn’t-in-my-classes-breakdown, we were lying together on my bed together, and she wailed, “I just don’t know if I can DO this, Mom.”

The tenderness I felt for her!  I had such a sweet knowledge wash over me, and it was one of  those rare parenting moments in which I could, even for a split second, see the big picture.  I know she fears not being able to keep up academically, and I know that she fears all the newness of people and place.  “Honey,” I said.  “It’s not your job to know you can do this.  Think about the adults in your life that you trust, the people that know you and love you.”

She paused, and listed those adults for me, her voice still thick with the tears of the last few minutes.  I stroked her hair and made sure she was looking me in the eyes.  “It’s our job to know you can do this.  Every single one of us knows you can do this.  We’re your security, your safety net.  And you have to trust that right now.”

I’m not saying that everything turned into roses and rainbows at that moment, but I think she started to turn the corner at about that point.  When I asked her later today how she was feeling about the situation, she sighed and said, “Well, I guess I can deal with it.”  That’s growing up, knowing that you can’t always change the circumstances, but having at least some confidence that you can cope.  She can cope.  And, to me, at this age and at this stage, that’s really big for her.

So she’s back on the beam, and while there are no grades for deciding to deal with life as it is, not what you want it to be, there should be.  She’s going to be more than fine.  She’s going to be fantastic.


2 Responses to “The exact center of the balance beam…”

  1. B-- said

    Your parenting skills earn a “10”, Coach. 😉

  2. Beth said

    But you never know about that Russian judge!

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