Middle school sucks. You couldn’t pay me enough money to go back. As the firstborn in my family, I didn’t have an older sibling to teach me how to be “cool.” As a result, I was definitely not. I like to tell people that I may have had the world’s longest “awkward stage,” with my wayward feathered hair, braces (actually had them twice) and questionable fashion choices. I can joke about it now, but middle school was a difficult time, and I desperately wanted to be popular.
My daughter is now in her first year of middle school, and she is already handling it more gracefully than I did. That being said, we will often run into some of her peers while we are out and about, and I will ask why she didn’t say hello to them. “Mom, she is a popular kid,” she will respond. Just these few words make me so angry and rip open my old wounds from a similar time in my life.
As a tween, my daughter may not always be open to talking about things, but there are a few pieces of wisdom my former middle school self would like to share with her:
1. Don’t let anyone tell you they are better than you. In my experience, the people who talk about how great they are tend to be the most insecure.
2. Be yourself. Don’t ever change just to be liked by someone else. A true friend will accept you for being your unique self.
3. Being “popular” when you are young doesn’t translate into success later in life. In fact, the kids who experience adult things too early tend to burn out. I love that many of the “nerds” in middle school and high school have turned out to be some of the most successful people I know.
4. Don’t grow up too fast. There is no rush to wear makeup, shave your legs, try alcohol or to have your first kiss. These are things to look forward to in life, and I will be here for you when you are ready.
5. Hold your head high and say hello. Acknowledge your friends and peers alike when you see them. It’s amazing what a smile can do to break the ice.
6. Embrace your individuality. Don’t try to fit in. You were put on this earth for a purpose, and the world is a better place with you in it.
Most of all, know that as your mom, I am always here for you. It wasn’t your age long ago I felt I wasn’t pretty enough, skinny enough, smart enough or popular enough. I didn’t feel worthy. Let me tell you: You are amazing in every way. I am incredibly proud of you every moment of every day, and you are going to do amazing things in this life. You will learn to fight your own battles, become resilient and find your own strength. I will help guide you along the way, and I will always have your back. Stand tall, be proud and know there is no one in this whole wide world who will ever be just like you, and that’s a wonderful thing.