Parents, they’re not in middle school anymore

Middle to high school

You know how it goes – you find yourself in completely unfamiliar surroundings and you summon the famous line from Wizard of Oz – “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Well, parents and students tend to feel the same way when kids make the transition from middle to high school, and I’m here to tell you that once they cross that threshold, “They’re not in middle school anymore,” in more ways than one.

So what’s the big deal? Well, for starters, ninth grade is the year for parents to slowly begin to relinquish the reins and increase both freedom and expectations for their children. This means holding kids accountable for:

  • following directions for homework and class work
  • keeping track of their own schedules, including due dates, practices, and meetings
  • cleaning their rooms and doing chores, especially if they haven’t up to this point
  • learning to do their own laundry
  • opening a bank account and learning how personal finances should be managed
  • accepting consequences for both good and bad decisions

I imagine that some of you are wincing as you read this, some are rolling your eyes and saying, “Yeah, right!” and some are already planning how they will roll out these new expectations with a minimum of weeping and gnashing of teeth… mostly on your end. Trust me that none of these intentions are out of reach. All are quite doable, with some work on your part to educate your kids in these areas and remain consistent in your expectations that your kids are capable of accomplishing all of these goals.

When they do, they will quickly determine that they are indeed growing up, that you trust them with greater responsibilities, and that you have expectations that they have to live up to. They will appreciate beyond words your respect for them as adults, and most will gladly rise to the occasion. The key, though, is to acknowledge entering high school as the milestone it is. Sit down with your 8th graders and tell them exactly what they will be learning in the new year, how it will feel different, and how much you trust that they can handle it. Then patiently set about teaching your kids how to do their own laundry, how to deposit their money into their own account, and how to organize their calendars so they can remind you of an upcoming game, rather than the other way around.

Steps like these, taken each year of high school and building upon the previous year, will foster young adults, who, by the time they’re legal adults ready to enter the next stage of their lives, will do so with aplomb.

For more tips like these, check out my book Teenagers 101.

One glorious day

This past Saturday, I had a glorious day. Considering there aren’t many days I describe that way, I thought I would share what made it so special, so above-the-fray, so memorable.

I spent the day with my daughter.

Let me set the scene: It was a temperate 77 degrees in Houston. The sky was azure, the breeze just breezy enough, the leaves as green as you can imagine. My daughter and I had tickets to the Christmas Home Tour held by a local organization to raise funds for a worthy cause. For my Northerners out there, you might have a hard time imagining touring backyard resort-style pools in the middle of December, but it was just beautiful. I was grateful to wear a short-sleeved shirt and bask in the sunshine after years of shoveling snow and freezing my bootie off in Chicago.

At any rate, the weather and beauty of the homes notwithstanding, I spent hours with my daughter. We never checked our cell phones. We sat in a gorgeous country club eating turkey crepes and watching the golfers. We meandered from house to house, oohing and aahing and occasionally screwing up our faces at decorations that weren’t our speed. We wandered out to back patios where cookies and cider were served by volunteers of all ages. We followed sounds of violins and beautiful voices to live orchestras and singers entertaining from a nook of a kitchen or hallway. We discussed the logistics of hanging garland on a bathroom mirror (how do you see yourself?) or filling a dining table with decorations (how do you eat???) We imagined what it would be like to be a child, growing up in a bedroom that featured a separate dressing area, “The Princess Room,” and a view to rival the finest of establishments.

It was glorious, just strolling and chatting and dreaming with my daughter. Sometimes, I think to myself, what in the world did I ever do to deserve this? When I find myself asking that question, I stop whatever I’m doing and send prayers of gratitude up to heaven, because the fact of the matter is, I haven’t done anything to deserve it. It’s an unsolvable mystery why some people have many glorious days and others have none. But when I have one, I stop and say thank you. You should too.

My wish for you during the holiday season is that you will have one glorious day. My guess is that it will have nothing to do with expensive presents or the wow! factor under the tree. Find whatever it is that you can share with your loved ones, and do it. Revel in it. Soak it all in.

As for me, I owe my son a glorious day, and I can’t wait for it to begin.

Me and Rae