By JENNIFER STEUER
The first year of middle school is half over already. In some ways, everything is as we thought it would be, in others … wow, has it kicked the door in and changed everything. Tween angst is a real and pervasive. Sixth grade is one of the toughest so far, not academically, but more so with the social interactions and, to be cliché, finding out who they are. Middle school is a tough time because of a new environment, hormones, new people, new teachers and trying to find the people they want to hang out with.
Report cards, interim reports and communication with teachers and guidance counselors have helped us realize how amazing Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca are. Academically, they are doing a phenomenal job. The first 10 weeks ended with honor roll status! We went to the celebration for all the honor roll students and loved every minute of the ceremony. And guess what? We got to repeat the celebration after the second quarter! Harlan and I are so proud of the way the kids are handling the academics of middle school. There is an option to take chorus as the music requirement. Olivia loves to sing so chorus is a good fit for her. Without telling us, Olivia auditioned for All-City Chorus, and she made it. That’s my baby, and I am very proud!
The school hours and after-school options are different. There are clubs after school! There is the school musical! And there is also the option of going to a friend’s house after school. Another giant difference is the way Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca get to and from school. Getting to school used to mean walking out the door and after 100 feet or so walking into the elementary school. Now the kids take a bus. The day is longer, there are more choices in extra-curricular activities and that leads to being more independent. The independence can make me want to pull my hair out sometimes because as much as I want to let go, I am afraid. My fear isn’t that they will do something wrong. My fear is that “the world” will do something wrong to my kids.
The three little people Harlan and I sent off to pre-K in 2012 have become 12-year-old young adults with big attitudes. Tween is a word I am not fond of, but it is an accurate description of this age group. Going from elementary school to middle school is hard because the change in what the kids hear and talk about is enough to push my blood pressure through the roof. I can’t flinch or react in any way because they will have found the chink in my armor. We can’t censor what the kids see and hear from their peer groups at school. For the most part this is fine, but when the information is incorrect or painful, Harlan and I work together to pick up the pieces.
The adolescent angst fills every inch of my home. I feel it dripping down, and I step in it regularly. Even though I am 45, I do remember what being 12-year-old girl felt like. Harlan and I are told on an endless loop that we don’t understand or won’t get it. Most questions we ask are answered with a deep sigh and an eye roll. They are willing to be with us out in public for the most part as long as we aren’t embarrassing. They are willing to talk eventually and maybe even snuggle up for a little bit.
I love the way Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca are committed to school and have found the different clubs that fit their own personalities. Their accomplishments are real and done by them. Harlan and I may have given them a sturdy starting point and nudged them along the way. The rest was up to them.
Jennifer Steuer is an Albany mom whose busy household includes her husband, Harlan, and 12-year-old triplets Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca. Follow her on Instagram: jennifersteuer.