It was middle school, after all, so we anticipated a few bumps in the road. Thinking back on the early days, the excitement of getting a new locker, finding out which friends were in your classes, the nerves of making it to said classes on time, this all seemed normal. A naturally confident little girl, I had no doubt our daughter would have a relatively smooth transition. I figured any bumps would be more like minor potholes.

Right away, your social studies teacher emerged as a favorite. We saw a local friend and recent high school graduate at the gas station. He asked you who your favorite teacher was, and you said the teacher’s name. He said, “Of course. He’s everyone’s favorite!”

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Sixth-grade camp happened early in the school year. I could tell you felt very grown up to go on your own overnight. I couldn’t wait to hear all about it upon your return.

You came back quieter than I expected, sharing a few stories but I sensed disappointment.

The weeks went on and we settled into a routine. Classes went fine, the locker opened, you memorized your schedule, making it to all seven classes on time. Friendships shifted in ways you weren’t prepared for it seems. Boys entered the picture (what?), new friendships formed with students who came from the other elementary school, and extracurricular activities meant spending time with different people. The time you used to spend in one certain classroom with one particular teacher changed for good.

Your confidence morphed into introspection. You grew quiet at home, and the tears fell more readily. Of course, hormones played a role. Potholes began to look more like craters, at least in this mama’s mind. Where did you fit now? Girls you’d known your entire school career weren’t mean to you (thank goodness), they just filled their lives with other things. Sometimes it felt as if they moved on without you, and you had liked things just fine the way they’d always been.

You’re not the athlete. You’re not the bubbly one. You’re not the boy crazy one. You’re the artist, the thinker.

I’m thankful for our daily trips to the bus stop and the 10-minute drive home from school in the car. These have become a safe place for you to share your feelings. We verbally walk through all the changes and how each one affects you. We give your friends grace as they’re finding their own way too. We discuss other classmates who might be feeling left out, because middle school is not just hard for you, and you’re growing in empathy.

About six months in, I thought we’d found our stride. We could handle middle school together.

Then a pandemic struck the entire world. Your shaky world suddenly turned upside down. I felt as if we’ve had a hidden blessing in this extra time at home. We avoided a good deal of middle school drama because you weren’t attending school in person.

My mama heart knows though, things still aren’t right. You’re a confident young lady but with less boldness. I think about it often, I do what I can to help, I pray about it and ultimately hear a whisper in my spirit, Don’t interfere too much; I’m forming her.

“For you formed my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13). Yes, God is forming you still.

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Middle school drama, months in quarantine, limited social interaction. I have finally found a word for where you are right nowlonely. I keep praying for one good friend. I ask God to bring one person in your life who chooses you first. Don’t we all hope for this?

Here is the biggest truth God keeps placing on my heartno one can fill your lonely parts like God can. I hope this time is teaching you this vital truth.

Middle school has not been easy. Going to school and then not going to school in a pandemic made it exponentially harder.

Sometimes I watch you when you don’t know I’m looking. I think you’re beautiful and talented and you’re so very loved. The amazing girl I’ve gotten to know over the years is still there. I’m very proud of who you are becoming. I have confidence in who you’ll turn out to be.

Middle school is only one tiny part of that process. We’ll get through this together, bumps and all.

Traci Rhoades

Traci Rhoades is a writer and Bible teacher. She lives in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area with her family and an ever-changing number of pets. Connect with her online at tracesoffaith.com or @tracesoffaith on twitter. She is the author of "Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost."