I mean, this particular blessing is seriously incognito. Definitely well hidden in the Blessing Witness Protection Program.
When I was going through these years with my oldest, the word “blessing” rarely came to mind. The Middle School years were the hardest of my life. The most challenging, exhausting and soul-wrenching I’ve ever experienced.
Raging hormones, the desire for independence, immaturity and a rot-gut culture encourage rebellion and can make middle school a misery for moms and kids.
But we did survive those treacherous years (in serious doubt at times). And now that I’m on the other side, I can finally say it: In many ways those years were a blessing.
You heard me right … a blessing. It took a while for this blessing to reveal itself, but it finally, mercifully, ripped off the mask.
Here are three ways that the Middle School years have blessed me and my relationship with my kids:
Relationship issues rise to the surface.
From the time my daughter was a toddler, we’ve butted heads. She is a feisty, strong-willed free spirit. I was a perfectionistic, image-conscious people pleaser.
It made for tension and dysfunction in the elementary school years. When she hit middle school, a powder keg literally went off.
Seemingly overnight, our relationship went from one of occasional head butting and annoyance to complete and all-out war.
Nearly all communication between us was emotionally-charged and unhealthy. I’m not exaggerating. We couldn’t find a way to connect.
The breakthrough finally came in a counseling session where she said, “I think you want me to behave so that you look good.”
Whoa. Harsh. But she was exactly right. I loved her, but I was also very concerned about my own image and keeping the peace. The message she internalized was this: “It’s not really about what’s best for me. You’re not concerned about how I’m acting because you love me. It’s because you don’t want to look bad.”
Asking for her forgiveness and getting to one of the big roots of the anger and animosity between us was a huge first step in healing. We are still on that journey, but we have come a long way.
Character issues rear their ugly heads.
My people pleasing, enabling and anger issues were completely laid bare during these years. The fruit of years of these unhealthy behaviors had come into full bloom.
If I wanted to quit damaging my kids, I had only one choice. I had to do whatever it took to get the help and accountability I needed to face these issues and begin to make better, healthier choices for myself and for them.
I am eternally grateful for this blessing. It has made an enormous difference in how I approach my parenting and in the lives of my kids.
It drove me to my knees like never before.
Healing deep-rooted relationship issues and changing unhealthy character flaws was overwhelming. I had no idea how to turn things around. It seemed impossible.
When my eyes were first opened, I actually became very depressed. I knew now how it should be, but I thought I’d destroyed my ability to change the damage I’d done.
And I was right. I couldn’t. It’s what drove me to my knees, day after day. Moment after moment. I gained a dependence on God and a very real sense of His love and power through those dark days of reaching out to Him.
He gave me the wisdom to know what to do and the courage to do it. And then His Holy Spirit began to change their hearts and mine. A blessing, indeed.
Your experience may not be as dramatic as mine. But I’ve talked to enough moms over the years to know that I’m not alone.
So, middle school mama, who is trying to just survive, take heart.
There is blessing in your pain. Ask God today to help you unmask it.