I don’t know about any other parent, but I can surely recall the horrors of 7th and 8th Grades! This transition from elementary school age to what is often called ‘Tweens was pretty much a nightmare for me. Even my children with strong personalities came home in tears many times during those hellish years. Hormones humming (or not), breasts growing (or not), pubic hair appearing (or not), mustaches blooming (or not), it was a time for transparent change that affected all my girls and the school yard became a battle ground.

Since I was such a “late bloomer,” that translates into not growing breasts until I was a sophomore in high school, I had suffered a lot of this torment later than my girls did. But all the same, I remember how awful it felt and I felt helpless when my daughters would come home totally distraught because they went from being the “Bell of the Ball” to being ostracized by the entire class.

Then there was my poor baby who was learning disabled and was tortured even worse when it came to these tumultuous years!

And the worst thing of all was?
I COULD DO NOTHING TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM!

I was helpless. If I complained to the teachers it would get back to the kids in the pack. If I complained to the parents, the pack would become more obsessed. I felt as if I were the one being “bullied” and had no place to run to. Not a pretty place to be as a parent.

So I tried my best to console my daughters and give them an opportunity to vent. Yes, there were a lot of tear sessions and, “Why is this happening to me?” mommy nights. And honestly I wanted to cry with them because I knew exactly how traumatic all this could be to a young person. I was one of them.

Oh yes, they used to call me the zipper in high school. I was too tall, skinny and flat chested. So the macho boys in the school used to taunt me with “Stick out your tongue Chris… You make a perfect Zipper!” I went home crying a lot. I even had my mother take me to the doctor to find out why, at the age of nearly 17, I still hadn’t gotten my period! Of course, there was nothing wrong with me, family heritage had it that we ALL were late bloomers.

So on it went for months at a time. We spent plenty of time on my queen-sized bed talking and trying to figure it all out to no avail. The best I could do was hold them and try to convince them that they were special and that they had to hold their head up high and believe that this would pass. And you know what?

It finally did!

It took a while, but what I realized after the third daughter, was that if you can share your own nightmares with them to show them you were just as vulnerable as they are now, you can get them to understand that this is just one horrible phase of growing up. That if you are able to stand up for yourself and not act like the victim the bullies want you to be, you can let them know you are a survivor. It’s difficult to tell a child that he or she doesn’t need to be part of a bullying crowd because they all, just like us, want to be accepted. But it’s the honest truth. I found that out by the time I was at the end of my sophomore year when the majority of the school found out that I was a pretty proficient artist and all of a sudden I was in demand! Painting stage scenery, making posters for clubs, designing costumes for plays, you name it… I became popular overnight!

And so it was with my daughters. By the time they were graduating from middle school, most of them found their own “voice.” It wasn’t easy and the timing was different for each of them, but they survived it all and have grown to be beautiful, productive and caring individuals.

So for those moms out there who have kids reaching that hideous stage of life, I hope you will take to heart with what I have to say here. Be open to their tears and share your own. Don’t judge and do a lot of listening. Give them hope and share your own horrible experiences when you were growing up. It will make you more human in their eyes and hopefully help them realize that this will all change in the near future. Good luck with the Hell they call Middle School! It’s not an easy journey.

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