Yes, I just called our kids mean. Middle school kids are mean but it’s not always their fault. Hormones are raging and they are doing their best to fit in. During these years they morph into teenagers that smell like onions. You know the smell! This is the time to introduce them to deodorant and the words LIFE IS NOT FAIR.
Most middle schools in our area pull from various elementary schools. This is a fresh start for many to start a new. They meet new friends and start exerting their independence. Trying to fit in to the social norm combined with hormones can be tricky and for some a lethal combination. For the kids that are ‘quirky’ or ‘different’ those middles school hallways can be a living hell. I have watched it first hand with my own children. My kids have their own unique personalities. They don’t always fit into the groups they seek to be a part of. They are pretty easy going when it comes to fashion or what everyone else has. I love that they don’t care what they wear or what other kids are wearing. However, they can be real jerks, too!
I do not like overusing the word ‘bullying.’ I think when feelings are hurt people tend to abuse the word which takes away from seriousness of certain situations. A ‘cry wolf’ effect. I say this as the parent of a child that has been teased and harassed. It is heartbreaking and certainly unfair. However, for some it can be the decision between life and death. This is not acceptable. It’s an ongoing problem in many schools. The schools do the best they can but can’t be everywhere all the time. I tell my kids that sometimes no matter how nice you are to people they are not meant to be your friend or even be kind. It’s a fact of life. Sometimes it’s a tough pill to swallow. Even for adults.
I have found that this ‘coming of age’ hazing starts earlier then I can remember as an adolescent. When my daughter was in elementary school we had an incident when she was in third grade. THIRD GRADE FOLKS! She was at recess and a group of her ‘peers’ circled around her and asked her to sing (the set up). My daughter has never been shy and absolutely loves to sing. I can’t say she is necessarily a good singer but do what you love. So, she proudly sang her heart out. Halfway through the song all the girls ran away laughing and mocking her (the insult). She was heartbroken. This was one of many times we had to explain “life’s not fair” to our baby girl. I don’t know if you call this bullying or kids being kids. Either way it’s hurtful. Kids want to be included and if you don’t meet an unspoken criteria then you’re out. This can destroy anyone’s self esteem.
Needless to say we pulled my daughter from public school after that year. She attended a private school for alternative learning and special needs. This school was amazing but expensive!!! Eventually our funds ran out. It was 12k/year and she attended for 4 years. You do the math. Our finances could not support this luxury anymore so we were forced to place her back into public school in 8th grade. We believe in the public school system. It’s just not for every child.
My daughter made many mistakes trying to fit in during her transition back into public school. She would make up stories that well liked students in her class were her boyfriends. This caused quite a stir. She really struggled trying to figure out how to fit in and make friends. During her 8th grade year she had zero friends at school. Not one. She would eat lunch with the school nurse at times. Then one day a well liked boy gave her another students phone number and explained this boy liked her (the setup). The number was not real and that boy did not like her. But she called. (the insult). See…. kids are jerks! Of course she was crushed. But through tears, hugs and heartfelt conversations we tried to restore her stolen confidence. There were several issues that year. I hated middle school. She hated middle school.
The following year she entered high school. Oh, how I love high school compared to middle school. The kids start to mature and smell good. They find their own group of friends through sports, special interest clubs and pure quirkiness. I remember someone saying that high school would be better and in her case it was. There were new problems in high school but compared to middle school we are happy those days are behind her. We still have 3 boys to help muddle through the halls of middle school and puberty has not been our friend. However, we are mentally prepared to guide them thanks to our previous experiences.
I wanted to share our little story to tell other parents with children struggling through these awkward and painful years: you are not alone! It’s not easy. Actually it sucks. Be vigilant. There is a light at the end of the ‘hallway.’ Helicopter if you must because sometimes our children need us to assure them they are not alone.