The Awkward Years

My oldest daughter, Solanna, is in the seventh grade. Do you remember the seventh grade? Middle school in general is just a strange period. Especially in our age, where the whole decade of your twenties is considered as glorified adolescence, what is the role of a middle-schooler? These poor kids are pretty confused about that. They certainly want to separate themselves from the “elementary” years. Our culture has labeled them “tweens” and has a whole media outlet marketed to them. But this is all a fantasy. The shows they watch are full of teenagers with no parenting and lots of money. They are all perfect singers, dancers, and fashion aficionados. But in reality, middle school is an awkward time of transformation. They are being introduced to the teenage world, but are kind of stuck in between. So when I pick up my daughter, I see eleven-year-olds who look sixteen. I see quiet kids who’ve gone “Goth.” Pestering alongside is your typical crowd of immature boys all vying for attention. And then there’s my sweet Solanna. She is small for her age, beautiful, and innocent-looking. How can I send her to such a place? What kind of education is she getting from her peers? I remember the seventh grade! Before she entered middle school in the sixth grade, I read a book with Solanna, And the Bride Wore White. The book was written for older girls, but unfortunately I find what’s marketed to her age is cheesified. Actually, a lot of the books written for adult women are cheesed up too. But I digress. I always told myself when it was time to “have the talk” with my kids, I was going to be the open mom that gave them real answers and be someone they would feel comfortable with. But when the time came, surprisingly, I was very uncomfortable. Anyway, I wanted to start a habit of reading books about purity and godly sexuality with her every summer. Before the sixth grade was over my cousin, Crystal, began to panic when she realized her daughter was about to enter middle school the next year. She came to me with the same discomfort and fear that I had when she realized it was time to deepen her discussions at home. So I came up with an idea. I had already selected the book Solee and I would be reading that summer, Girls Gone Wise, by Mary Kassien. What if I turned it into a mother/daughter book club? Crystal liked the idea. We brought my other cousin, April, into the loop and I made a plan. Our daughters each could invite one friend with her mother (to keep the group small enough), and we would meet three times over the summer at my house (with lattes and snacks, of course). The girls were pretty excited about the idea. As I was preparing the reading assignments and questions for discussion, I was afraid that the girls would be too shy to speak up. Solanna and I prayed during our preparation. God really blessed that time we spent together. We had great discussion, and I feel like us mom’s opened a door of communication with our daughters that will be a blessing for years to come. The girls enjoyed hanging out, and felt privileged that we cared enough to put this much effort into their future relationships. Of course, there will be hard times ahead for us. I tried to tell the girls this while they were making their mature declarations at book club. But we have laid a good foundation to start—the book was very gospel-centered. And the girls look forward to next summer. So do I! I’m sharing this as an example of how we can get creative in helping our kids with the struggles they find themselves in growing up. It is tough. I want my kids to know they can share that with me too. Those of you who don’t have kids this age can come alongside and be a mentor. That was another thing I liked about the book club. I got to know the other girls that came a little better. What a hard time it is for kids growing up in this age of technology! But one thing is for sure. While the times may be changing, the gospel isn’t. I think one mistake we fall into as parents is giving our children the law without extending the gospel. The law exists for a reason. But we should surely know that it condemns us all. Not only do I not want my children to be sexually active outside of marriage; I want them to understand the beauty of their sexuality. I want them to know the treasure they are saving for. I want them to know that it is hard. Jesus said to his disciples, “In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” What a privilege it is to be a parent blessed to partake in Christ’s work of renewing our child’s minds. And what a responsibility! When my children fall short, I need to remind myself that I do too. I pray that I can point them to Christ, our only hope, through the struggles ahead. Do any of my readers have advice to share?

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