The tv was off and the boys were busy. Drew’s away in Madison for work. Abbey followed me into the living room.
It was just the two of us.
I sat comfortably in the big leather chair, all settled in. She stood, sat, paced, repeat- talking all the while. My job was to pay attention and listen, the rest would figure its way to the surface as our time together unfolded.
It all just came flowing out.
I have a very strong daughter. Truthfully, I have been jealous of how she is determined to be herself and let the hard stuff roll off. But I’m not stupid and neither is she, we all internalize things we didn’t even realize we were internalizing. She was holding a lot.
We talked, middle school.
ONE month left and she leaves it behind. (HALLELUJAH! One kid’s MS career down, one more kid with a year left and then the last one with three big years to go.)
I noticed lately how she spoke more about the social aspects of school life and how segregated kids choose to be. Racially, her school is diverse. But naturally, it still quite segregated. And it isn’t just race- it’s everything. All that stuff you faced when you were a middle schooler? It’s all still there, that and more.
The athletic kids, the nerds, the theater geeks, the lonely ones, the popular kids, the musicians, the robotics crew and all the others that fall somewhere in between. This hasn’t changed.
She was frustrated with gym class and how crazy things get. If anything is going to get out of hand and go wrong, it’s during that time. (Honestly, I would have no problem with doing away with middle school/high school PE, what’s fun for some is a complete nightmare for many.) She talked about navigating life that hour and how just doing what you are supposed to do wasn’t that easy when there was such chaos. Every day was a new adventure and not always fun.
She talked about how mean people are. She talked about the inner battle of knowing when to stand up for someone and when to stay out of other people’s way. All this stuff isn’t so clear cut and honestly, I think many of our kids are just doing the best job they can. I listen as she shares how she’s doing her best. I’m proud of her, I think she’s doing a damn fine job.
I’m proud of me in this moment because with all the stuff she shares with me I stay cool, calm and don’t get overly emotional. I know her and I know that is the best way to shut her down. I keep telling myself, keep your mouth shut Lisa, don’t look upset, just listen, just listen, just listen. Then, I ask a few questions. I can tell when she wants me to stop.
I’ve spent the last several months feeling like I totally screwed up this parenting thing, and make no mistake, I’ve screwed up plenty. But I also know that staying present and staying open will go a long way with these three kids. Keep that door open and provide a safe place to unload it all when the time is right.
Last night the time was right for my girl. I pulled off the listening thing, she pulled off the talking thing and we had a great time together. Of course when my head hit the pillow later I found it impossible to sleep- so much for my kid to carry and now she was sharing the weight with me.
But she’s doing it, she DID it! She pulled off middle school. AND, on top of all that, she’s a nice kid! She loves to learn! She cares about people! If I needed a reminder that we must be doing something right, it was handed to me last night.
That, and a only a few hours of sleep. Who said you get more rest when your kids sleep through the night?
Only 4 more years of middle school left.
WE can do this.
(I’m not ready to talk high school but I’m pretty sure this ones gonna love it. Also, I see you wrinkles!! Forget stretch marks, those are the badge of motherhood.)