Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mothers in the Middle

Today is Mother's Day. Although I am myself a mother of four, I always think of MY mother when I think of Mother's Day. Today I went to her house to deliver the yearly MDP (Mother's Day Plant) and as I left I gave her a big 'ol hug.

My mother is 81. She weighs 100 pounds in her heaviest winter clothes and has difficulty getting around - yesterday she tripped over the cane that is supposed to keep her from falling. So as I stood there and held onto my feeble mother today I was thinking about how much more attention she gets from me now that I'm older than she did back when she was really mothering me, those crazy adolescent years when she was responsible for everything I ate, everything I wore, and all transportation I needed to get me where I needed to go. I didn't appreciate her then like I do now. And now, of course, she's not taking me anywhere. I'm the one running the "elderly shuttle," as she calls it.

As I drove away, I thought of the mothers at the other end of the spectrum, mothers. My stepdaughter came in today with a pricey purse in tow, surely not purchased by my three-year-old granddaughter, Taylor. And think of those young women who have newborns. They surely get gushed over when it's their "First Mother's Day."

But there's another group of mothers out there. Those Mothers in the Middle are suffering, and I see their pain. One reason I know so much about middle school motherhood is because I watched my own children turn from precious mommy lovers to evil mouth clicking demons when they went to middle school. Not only did I not know anything when my kids were teenagers, their friends' parents were awesome! I would hear, "But everybody's parents let them do more than you let me do!" And I would answer, "Well, I guess I just love my children more than other parents love theirs."

The real reason I know that middle school mothers are suffering is because I see it when they come to talk to me about their children. I hear it every year:

"He always made straight A's until middle school."

"She's never cared about boys until now, and I can't get her off the phone."

"He must be hanging around with bad kids. He's never used that language before." (I've always wondered who the bad kid's parents blame the behavior on.)

Some mothers come in for a conference and spend the entire time frantically explaining the child's behavior at home, detail-by-detail. I feel like they just need to be heard; surely they don't expect me to come home with them and start handing out expectations and rewards in an effort to turn around the behavior.

Some mothers argue and place blame on the teacher while others lament "I don't know what to do with him either. He's going to give me a nervous breakdown."

On this Mother's Day I'd like to tell all of you Mothers in the Middle - it will be okay. My children turned themselves around just as they began to experience a little freedom. A driver's license and a car can really boost a negative attitude (mainly because they want to keep those car keys.) And somewhere along the time my daughter went to college she called to tell me she sure missed all the things I used to do for her. (It was especially helpful that three of my children didn't have air conditioned dorm rooms. August in the South can sure make a kid homesick.)

Middle school is a tough time for kids - those are some very difficult years developmentally. If you don't believe it, think back on your own adolescent years.

Oops. I think I better go back and give my poor little mother another hug. And another MDP, too.

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