The TV Show “The Middle” is Funny! Everything Else “Middle”… Not So Much


Middle
Sure we all like the show The Middle.    But I like little else involving “The Middle”. How about you?

Middle Age is surprisingly everything everyone older than me said it was. There really are aches and pains when you wake up in the morning. You really do notice that your skin is not what it used to be. I haven’t read, I Feel Bad about My Neck: And Other Thoughts About Being a Woman, but the title makes me say, Amen Sister!

Middle of The Road or Middle Ground is not something I like to take. Although my job as a college teacher (and being a parent) forces me to accept and examine the “gray” areas of life, I like black and white. Right and wrong. I’m a rule-follower and life just seems easier when I choose one or the other. However, Middle of The Road is occasionally necessary.

The Middle of My Long-Gone Waist Line is flab and this makes me mad! I already don’t eat all the M&M’s and potato chips that I really want to, and I exercise a few times a week, and I STILL have a ridiculously soggy, mom-of-3-kids middle!

The Middle School Years… ahhhhh!!  Well, if we’re being Mommy-mushy, there are certainly priceless, beautiful moments between 6th and 8th grade. Lots of really nice days and fun events are now part of our family memories, but often, those years were challenging as I painstakingly sorted through daily questions, tears, and frustrations. Can we just camp on the Middle School years for a minute?

The Middle School Gym Class is where many girls decide that messing up their hair is so not worth actually trying to compete and win a game.

The Middle School Hallway is where walking to your locker feels like you’re being bounced through the center of a pin ball arcade game.

Middle School Staff sometimes forgets that the emotional maturity gap between a first-born 6th grader and a last-born 8th grader is the width of the Grand Canyon. Yet, we crunch them altogether and expect the 6th graders to feel welcome and safe. Some 11 year olds haven’t been raised on Black Ops and Mortal Kombat. If you’ve read my blog awhile, you’ll remember Desensitize My Kids?! This leads me to…

Middle School Assemblies. Sometimes, good intentions are ill-timed or go too far. Kids are ready for outside world information at very different ages. If they didn’t know prior to the assemblies, these events have taught kids where the best drug dealers can be found, how to roll, inject, snort and hide drugs. They introduced alcohol frozen pops and how to hide alcohol in your flip flops. Perhaps this information would be better suited for the parent assemblies in the younger grades. The Rachel’s Challenge assembly was much too early for my kids. My daughter’s eyes blazed at me that afternoon, “How can you EVER send me back to school?  Did YOU know that kids get shot at school?!” At 11 years old, the precious lesson from Rachel’s life which was well intended by Middle School administration, was buried by guns and mental images of terrified children. After that, I requested my children not attend any assemblies without a note or call home first regarding its content.

The Middle School Cafeteria is where lunchboxes stop being cool. Thankfully, my 9th grader still carries hers at the high school!  

The Middle School Church. Disclaimer: I delicately, respectfully and generally speak only of my small-world experiences!  We are in the Northeast and we can’t boast truly Christ-centered churches “on every corner”, as my southern friends have. Getting youth to come on a regular basis to church is challenging. That said, the desire for my kids to experience a thriving youth group led me a few years ago to visit several church kids programs, and similar organized events.  What I discovered was between nursery and 5th grade, the spiritual growth opportunities were plentiful. At 13, the kids are sometimes dropped off the edge of a spiritual cliff.

When kids are 0-12, they have little say about whether or not they’re going to church with Mom and Dad. When kids are 13-18, they can make dental surgery preferable to Sunday mornings.  Yet, at 0-12, my kids had more VBS, Sunday morning theatre shows, holiday events, and spiritually-driven girls and boys programming in one year than they’ve ever had as middle teens.

When they are little, we smile into those cherub faces saying, “God loves you!”  At 15, we shy away from telling them they are accepted and loved, often because their serious faces scare us off!  Leaving them alone just makes it easier for them to leave. The book, Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it, claims that approximately 90% of kids leave church in the middle teen years.

Not to mention that the best-intended parents who say church will come before sports when their kids are 5, find it terribly difficult not to break that family rule when the kids are 15 (myself included). When they do get to church, there needs to be connection. Important to note: we can be in the best spiritual environment possible and kids will still make their own choices-I know that. I’m also deeply grateful for the godly people who devote their time to the often thankless job of serving our youth at churches across this nation.

The Middle Teens: Aren’t Always “Cute”. Remember when your little ones did something mischievous or blurted out “no!!” to you? Their cuteness saved them.  During the middle teens, their moodiness and complaining is just ugly.

The Middle Teens: Puberty My son turned into a completely different species. Did you read, Moms of Teen Boys Be Encouraged?

Kids in the Middle of a divorce turn into adults who still identify themselves as such. Thankfully, there are programs, such as Kids in the Middle, Children in the Middle, and Divorce Care, which help children navigate the “two homes” “four parents”, etc., but living it out as a child is tough, no matter how well parents think their kids are taking it. Some interesting information is located in the book, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce.

The Middle of the Night. Or should I say 2am?  Anyone have the occasional insomnia? Just because I know it’s always “live”, QVC keeps me company!

The Middle Finger.Nuff said.

The Middle Class and being Middle Child are up for debate! Have I bummed you out or can you relate? The Middle is not always great, so I keep striving for better. Because I hate ending anything on a downer, some good things about The Middle? Middle America! Malcom in the Middle! (I never saw it, but I hear it’s good). The Middle of an Oreo…:)Oreos

Wordless Wednesday…With a Few Words :)

Shopping for my kids school items….then:      🙂   🙂   🙂 IMG_0166

And now:       😦   😦   😦 IMG_0164

Teenage Privacy…Is it OK to spy on your teens’ texts? Internet history? Surf their social media? Yep!

Is it okay to look through your kids’ bedroom drawers?
Read their texts?
Surf their internet history?

When my children first began high school, I had more interest and opportunity to do all of those things. They were still figuring out what was acceptable and what wasn’t. I was extremely attentive. I certainly didn’t check their computer histories, texts or drawers on a regular basis, but when I thought about it, or when something seemed suspicious, I certainly had no problem checking on all of it.

No, I didn’t feel bad about that at all! I didn’t feel as though I was invading their privacy and frankly, I thought of myself as far more responsible than those who refuse to check on their kids and live by the philosophy, “Kids are going to do what they are going to do”. Now that my twins are 19, I believe that is true. When they were only 13, there was still plenty of room and time to steer their moral ship.

If you’ve read much of my writing, you know I lean toward the “serious” in life and tend to way overthink anything related to raising kids. Surprisingly, this isn’t an issue I feel is too deep. I don’t believe for a second that there is any long-term damage done to a child whose Mom cares enough to peek in on their social media.

On the lighter side of this issue, I can’t help but think…

I’ve given up privacy for 19 years.

Just recently over Christmas break when my twins were home from college, I sat down on the toilet and sure enough, in two seconds there was a knock at the door followed by, “Mom?!”
Seriously? The boy just watched me walk in here!?

When I’m in the shower, there are still occasional knocks on the door by three grown teenagers. “Mom!! Do you know where the stapler went?”

My kids pick up my phone all the time.
They flip through my texts, look at my photos and check my email.
Not because they are “checking” on me. Really, they are just sitting at the counter. And, instead of just sitting—at—the—counter, they’ll pick up my phone. I don’t mind. I do however, around Christmas and birthdays, give fair warning that their gifts might be in the photos or email.

On a more serious note, in this very depraved society, for children that might be being bullied or sexually harassed or worse, isn’t it better to surf a few things out to see that everything is okay and they are not holding back something that could eventually harm them?

Choose My Battles?

boxing-gloves-picLast week my husband suggested that I more carefully “choose battles” with my twin 16-year olds.  Spending so much time together during the summer apparently had me criticizing them about “stupid things”.

While I might have dismissed my husband’s comment ;), I was convicted while reading a statement from Ruth Graham, located in the book: Billy Graham in Quotes.  She writes, “Never let a single day pass without saying an encouraging word to each child…” (pg. 41).

That hit me hard because my son was nearby looking sad.  Not mad, not angry, just disappointed that I suggested he get a haircut.  His hair is one of the battles that I’ve (for the most part) kept quiet about because he is a hockey player and having “sick flow” that sticks out of the back of the helmet is quite the rage.  I looked up from my book to see his expression which probably had less to do with the haircut and more to do with the previous hour.

“Your bedroom floor is always a mess.  Why don’t you bring the laundry when you go upstairs?  Did you seriously just leave the door open again, letting out the air conditioning?!  Can you please, just once, put the wet towels in a separate laundry basket?! Did you read anything today or just watch TV?”

His response?  “Mom, I cleaned all three bathrooms, did the dishes, and took out the garbage.  Did you notice those things?”  I had, but instead of praising the good, I focused on what needed “improvement”.

I had wet eyes as Proverbs 10:19 jumped into my head.  Just to make sure I got the hint, God dropped Colossians 3:21 into my mind:  “…do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.”

Leaving my kids with heavy hearts due to “unnecessary comments” is a change I need to make.  So, I decided to abandon criticism and my drill sergeant tone of voice.  Within two hours, my resolution was a vapor and I promptly had something to say about my daughter’s shirt neckline being too low.

Her response? “Go ahead, make me feel bad again about the clothes I wear!”  All I heard was “again…”  I immediately tried to diffuse the situation, but she waved me off and stormed down the hall.

I have three really good teenagers and the four of us are particularly close.  This fact makes it especially terrible that I don’t always think before I talk.  I questioned why I am continually in their business and realized that although they have grown into young adults, often, I still attend to them as if they were ten.  There’s a major mind shift required by parents when kids become “upper-teens”.  Where monitoring the amount of texting and TV time was previously a sign of good parenting, during these years, such things become “battles”.

My daughter was recently watching “baby videos”, as we’ve been transferring old VHS tapes into DVDs of the kids when they were little.  All you hear are praises and encouragements spewing out of my husband and I on those tapes.  “Good boy!” “Great job!” given with serious enthusiasm from both of our “big” personalities.  Staring at the screen, I was reminded that those adorable cherub faces at 4 years old are the same people, just in bigger bodies…needing the same encouragement but less micro-management.  I again resolved to eliminate criticism.

It’s been a week since my resolution went into effect and it has been exceedingly more influential upon me than my kids.  I’ve picked up the laundry several times to find wet towels on top of good clothes.  The door is continuously left open on 80+ degree days.  They’ve plopped down to watch television while a mountain of clean laundry the size of Everest sat directly in front of them, waiting to be folded.  My mouth has either remained zipped or I’ve gently asked they take the clothes upstairs to their rooms.

What an enormous exercise in self-control.  About “choosing battles”?  There is already a societal and spiritual battle raging to destroy our kids.  I’m not “choosing battles”.  While I’m still making suggestions, I’m “choosing encouragement”1Thess5:11

On the day your first child gets their driver’s license, you’ll want to do something nice for yourself

I didn’t think the day would really be about “me”, as a celebration lunch was in order for the new driver, followed by a few more stops for extra driving time.

Yet, it was a surprisingly sensitive day for me. I quite unexpectedly felt needy, self-conscious… I craved a vacation from the passenger seat.

Although I have twins, my daughter took her road test prior to my son. She is my independent child and seemed ready to bolt the nest since she was in the 8th grade. On the day she received her driver’s license, this child was beyond thrilled.

She was euphoric.

We’re talking natural “high”.

As I thanked the road test lady and buckled into the passenger seat, my daughter was giddy. She was laughing and dancing in her seat as much as the seatbelt would allow her to shake those slim hips. John Travolta disco arms began waving through the car. An 80’s song came on the radio as we pulled away from the curb. She raised the volume and began having her own rock concert. This girl would normally cringe over 80s music coming out of the speakers. Not today.

Today the child was “free”. Even 80s music wouldn’t kill her buzz.

So back to me 🙂 . I admired the high. The excitement of a world that just opened up to her for the first time. We had been through the first boyfriend only months before. She had that same sparkle in her eyes…the unknown…the unexpected trepidation that isn’t scary but thrilling.

I was truly happy for her. So much so that I was laughing hard at her excited blue eyes, her rocking singing, the anticipation of a new beginning where the parental boundaries would yet again, widen slightly.

The laughter left my eyes wet. Maybe the humor tears had morphed into a soft emotional tear…

I looked down wondering why I simultaneously had a strange sadness.

The sadness might have had something to do with the stomach softness that was protruding over my seatbelt. I sucked it in, pulled my waist band up over the pouch and straightened up a bit.

I suddenly wanted lipo-suction. If I had the money, I seriously might have called that afternoon.

The sadness might also have been about her leaving the nest more often. My anxiety would certainly rise as she carted girlfriends back and forth to practice and for frozen yogurt.

I was in mid-life, and her exhilaration made me want to call a travel agent. I wanted to capture that feeling for myself…staring at a crystal-blue ocean, the wonderment of Christmas morning, the first car, the driver’s license, the firsts….

In your 40’s, there aren’t many firsts.

When I was 20, I thought my 40s might be spent traveling the world. We’re too busy paying for our kids to travel the world, to play travel sports…our checkbook reflects the life of raising kids. The 40’s are steady. Sure, it’s still good, but it’s not wonderment.

As my precious first-born daughter belted out a song holding an invisible microphone at stop lights, I couldn’t help but laugh. She waved with delight to random, fellow drivers. Their eyebrows furrowed, indicating they thought she was another weird teen.

All I could do was embrace the moment. It was hers, not mine. Yet, as all parents know, there is something beautiful that we do truly participate in when they take the first steps or get their first driver’s license. We too are “thrilled”, just in a different way.