I noticed that I haven't talked about the Tornadoes in a while. That must have been nice for you, but it's over now.
So, Seventh Grader. Seventh Grader gets annoyed with me for not identifying her and her sister, Freshman, by name. Why don't I just use their names? she asks me. Why did I even bother giving them names if I just think of them by label? Well, Seventh Grader, because sometimes those labels save your life. I don't mean in the way you think I mean. That is, I'm not referring to how by thinly shielding their true identities on a public forum I might protect them from bad guys. I'm talking about when, say, Seventh Grader decides to act like a whiny little puke, I have a way of reminding myself: "Ah. Seventh grade. Where whiny little pukes are made." And then I don't kill her.
This is working out doubly well for Seventh Grader in particular, actually, because she bears a label which has already been broken in by her sister. It has really only been whatever common sense God gave me plus a fine selection of parenting books on dealing with teenagers that stood between life and death for Freshman on many a day. She's much more subdued now, a new level of maturity having emerged with her advancement to high school. I hold out great hope that it continues to get better as time goes on. But as Seventh Grader, and especially as Eighth Grader? Freshman was among the whiniest, pukiest, most self-centered, stubbornest, most resistant to parenting, biggest slave-to-whiny-puke-conformity whiny pukes that ever whined or puked.
Excuse me. I think I blacked out for a minute. Anyway, rough times, but they produced a bounty of experience that is serving to cushion the blow as Seventh Grader, perhaps involuntarily, acts out the same annoying crap for me. Case in point: the wildly vacillating adolescent identity crisis that encompasses homework completion. Some days, Seventh Grader is the same Five Year Plan big dreamer about her future that she has oddly always been. She's going Ivy League, she's building skyscrapers and then leaping them in a single bound. Other days, she is a hot mess of At Least I'm Passing, Just Leave Me Alone! Excessive television and/or Internet usage seems to be a trigger.
Yesterday was a hot mess day. I should have seen it coming. Too many DVR'ed episodes of Glee. Too many excited phone conversations. The first three times I asked about homework I got an immediate "Yep!" which means, of course, "Nope!" The next two times I asked, she could barely pull herself up from the electronic haze to comprehend the question. Before you point out that I shouldn't have to ask five times, just shut up. I wasn't going to ask her at all, since she assured me over the weekend that if I just gave her some space to take responsibility for her work, she would do a much better job. Another few hours went by after dinner and she remained simultaneously glued to her phone and the TV. When it came time to shoo her up to bed, I couldn't resist but ask one more time.
"Are you SURE you actually did your homework today?"
"Because I can't help feeling like maybe you didn't do it."
"This is your chance to come clean. Homework? Did it? Or was that all a story?"
Tears. Heavy, instant, dramatic tears. The whole, nearly verbatim outburst I heard two years ago from Freshman about how she can't do anything right, all I care about is school, it's all stupid, it's none of my business, and I think she threw in something about something else being stupid. Maybe me. Sigh. My blood pressure didn't even blip. "Go to bed," I told her. And this morning she was back to being Wonder Girl.
As little fun as I'm having with Middle School Motherosity, I do recall how very much more it sucked to be the child in this scenario. Middle school blows chunks. Always has. Fortunately, if you pass, you get to leave and never go back. Until your kids go. My advice: use the labels. They help.