Was Middle School Always this Tough?

Missing school work, hiding a bad grade in a class and an attitude that felt like it came out of nowhere gave me cause to be concerned.  Isaiah, thirteen years old is the smartest thirteen year old I know.  He’s kind and funny, but now there’s middle school.  Middle school is a messy place.  Middle school is full of emotions.

A few months ago a boy in his class relentlessly told him he has big ears.  I mean, this kid wouldn’t stop.  I asked the teachers to make sure Isaiah didn’t have to sit by him and that helped a little.  The problem is that once a negative comment is in your brain, it’s difficult to get out. 

I realize that many people think we need to let our kids toughen up because we live in a cruel world.  I’m not of this mindset; this article isn’t going to be about how to make our kids tough.  Seriously, adults can’t handle constant negativity, why would we expect kids to?

I asked Isaiah if prior to this comment if he ever peered in the mirror and thought to himself, “geeze, my ears are big”.   His answer was no.  He never thought anything negative about himself until the boy in his class pointed it out. 

It took some convincing for him to believe that his ears are just fine.  I set out on a bigger quest though.  I want him to know how our words and thoughts affect our brain and how they affect others.  I told him a couple of stories that came from my past.  He listened intently and felt somewhat satisfied that he wasn’t alone. 

My sister was in the eleventh grade and I was in the ninth.  Although we didn’t attend the same school at the time, her high school friends spent time at our home.  She had a football player boyfriend for a short time and while at our house he spoke some words to me that I’ve never forgotten. 

He told me that I have a big nose.

 I was shocked because before that day I never realized that my nose is on the larger size compared to my sister.  I never noticed that my nose was less than perfect.  I never looked in the mirror and came up with that thought on my own, but since that day I see it like a big red flashing light.  People take away a child’s security when they tear them down.   When I was pregnant with my first child, my brother in law commented that he hoped my child doesn’t get the “Pelkey” nose.  I acted like it didn’t bother me, I ignored it but it dug in deep into my heart.  All three of my older kids got perfect little noses like their father.   For years I dreamed of going to a doctor to have my nose fixed.  I wasn’t obsessed about it but I thought, “If I could I would”.  Many years later, something shifted my desire to have a nose job.

One afternoon I was in a restaurant bathroom with my youngest child when she was about five years old.  I had been divorced, remarried and conceived two children with my current husband.  While watching me check my face out in the mirror, she asked me what I was doing.  My automatic response, “I’m just trying to look prettier”.  She asked me if I thought she looked like me.  And I told her she most definitely does.  She asked if I thought she is pretty and I answered her with enthusiasm that I believe she is beautiful.  She then told me that if I think she is beautiful then that means I am beautiful.  That was the day I decided to never consider a nose job again.  She has my nose.  I realized that I would be sending the complete opposite message that I so intentionally have been teaching.  She’s going to get negativity spoke to her because we live in that kind of a world, but it’s not going to come from me.   

I’ve spent my whole motherhood years trying to speak uplifting words to my children. I experienced what it feels like to have hurtful words hurled at me and I’ve seen the damage it’s done to people that I love. 

 I remember when my oldest child, Alicia was in middle school and how difficult it was for her.  I was stunned by the treatment she experienced.  My experience in middle school was almost picture perfect.  The drama was low, I had great friends, and my teachers were kind to me even when I strived to be the class clown.  My experience was not her experience.  She was told that she was fat.  She was told that she was ugly.  Students spread rumors that she was gay in a time that it was not celebrated the way it is today.  For years, Alicia believed she was fat and ugly.  She was adorable and still is.  Far from fat and far from ugly, her mind clung onto those lies.   Just like her mom, she clung onto those thoughts for many years. 

As I contemplated how I was going to express myself through this article, I asked the Lord to tell me what He would say to the person who has been told that they are fat, ugly and worthless.  And He spoke two words.  “Don’t Hide.” 

The exciting thing about these two words was that it was a biblical truth.

Genesis 3:10 says, “He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

When God questioned Adam while he was hiding in the trees of the garden, He was fully aware of the reason Adam felt compelled to hide.  Adam and Eve hid based on a lie that they were told by Satan and chose to believe, resulting in guilt.    First, Satan made her question whether God had truly told her not to eat the fruit.  Then Satan came in with his lie that Eve would not die if she ate the fruit.  Adam and Eve hid because of guilt that their sin produced.  There are other reasons we hide.

Lies that we believe will make us hide.             

We hide from the truth

We hide our fears

We hide from our friends

We hide from our feelings

We hide our gifts

We hide our dreams

We hide from trauma

We hide from hard things

We hide from bullies

We hide our opinions

We hide secrets

We hide our stress

We hide our hurt

We hide our pain

We hide because we have believed a lie.  I’m not good enough, people will hate me if they knew the real me, if I don’t think about it then the pain will go away.  The negative thoughts roll around in our head until we believe it and when we believe it enough we start to see it play out in our lives. 

In an article in Relevant Magazine, the author Scott Savage says, “We become aware of how our minds trick us into thinking the worst-case scenario leaving us permanently defeated.” 

Nothing is permanent because we serve a God who has resolutions to our situation.

The fearful thoughts, the negative ideas come from the enemy because we are his target.  God’s truth is the answer.

How do I know that hiding is playing into the hand of the enemy?  Because God called to Adam and said, “Where are you?”

We may try to hide from ourselves, other people and God but He will always seek after us and say:

You are worth finding.  Genesis 3:9

You have a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11

You are not forgotten.  Psalm 94:14

You were created with purpose.  Ephesians 2:10

You are loved no matter where you are.  Romans 8:38-39

I like to get practical. 

You may be asking, how can I stop the negative thoughts that have been placed in my memory?

 My answer is: Consistent prayer, consistent reading of scriptures, consistent fellowship.  The good will overshadow the negative over time.  Consistency is key.

The negative thoughts are amplified while the positive thoughts or comments are minimized.  Just think about how much more positive we have to fill our minds with to combat the negative.

I love the book by Dr. Caroline Leaf called, Switch on Your Brain.  I’ve learned that we can renew our mind with the thoughts of God.  He is the creator of all things so if we ponder on His thoughts we will have a better, happier life.  Knowing our identity in Christ comes through knowing who God says we are and what He says we are capable of being and doing. 

I heard someone say on a video that blowing out someone’s candle doesn’t make ours shine any brighter.  (You should check out the thought provoking videos that Jay Shetty makes.) 

And in contrast to that, don’t allow people to make you feel like you’re not good enough.

Notice your words.

If you speak to people in ways that tear them down, stop it.

Take note how your children speak.

If your kids speak to each other or to you in a rude way, tell them to stop it.  Seriously, teach them how words affect people.  If they are negative in your home, they are probably that way outside your home and have the potential to really hurt someone. 

Talk to your children.

Is someone making them feel less than?  Is someone calling them names or putting a label on them?  Are they being bullied but not talking about it?  If they’re in middle school, the chances are high that they live in fear of being noticed, called out or labeled something bad.  Talk to them, lift them up and reassure them over and over again of who they are. 

Conversations with our kids are more important than a healthy meal, getting them to practice or providing the most in style clothes.

After Isaiah and I had several in-depth conversations, he said he felt relieved.  I saw his body language change; his spirit at rest and his freedom to love himself and the rest of our family come back immediately.  All because I stopped what I was doing and listened to him.

Asking a child, “are youK?”, isn’t enough.   I had to think before I knew what to ask, I prayed throughout the day but eventually I got it.  I asked the right question and he completely opened up.  I have plenty of parenting fails but when I get a win like this, I feel like I have won the lottery.  It’s worth repeating:  Conversations with our kids are more important than a healthy meal, getting them to practice or providing the most in style clothes.

Isaiah: You may not ever read this article, but if you do I want you to know that I am thankful that because of you I am growing to be a more compassionate person. Because you let me into your thoughts, you’ve allowed me the privilege of walking beside you.  I will always cheer you on because I know what you are capable of.  You are a brave kid who has the perspective that many adults are seeking to have.  You are loved.  Mom