This was the dreaded week of Parent-Teacher Conferences at my sons’ school. I have one son in fifth grade, and the other is in seventh grade. Fifth grade was a breeze for my youngest son. He seems to have the maturity of a 75-year-old man. He knows when to put his head down and work. He knows when to joke (appropriately, of course). He knows when to speak and when to listen. His teacher had nothing but positive things to say. His dad and I sat in awe, wondering how we managed to create such a perfect young human who is sure to change the world (for good, of course).
Two years prior, we felt the same about our oldest, who is now in the ravaging throes of Teenage Town. His seventh-grade experience, thus far, has been less than smooth sailing. Our meetings with his seventh-grade teachers centered on one resounding theme:
The kid talks too much. He’s loud. He likes attention. He is the class clown….
None of this was surprising. He comes by these traits, honestly. His dad and I both exhibited similar showmanship at his age. However, the difference between sixth grade and seventh grade has been nothing short of astounding for my oldest son. My firstborn. The one who made me a momma bear. My baby boy.
Just last year, my son was the Sixth Grade Class President. He was involved in several social clubs as well as Staff Senate. He was an emerging star athlete, competing for his school in basketball and track. He was literally the poster child for the perfect sixth grader, the perfect all-around kid in general.
And then my son turned 13.
His seventh-grade year, while barely just begun, started with in-school suspension, numerous calls and e-mails from teachers and the administration, and even complaints from other parents. His dad and I were flabbergasted! Was this the same kid that, less than 12 months prior, was at the top of his class and leading his young cohorts forward to positively change the world?! Yes, one and the same…..
We did everything we knew to do in a desperate attempt to keep him from continuing down a troublesome path. We took away electronics, gave him only the basic functions on his phone, and did not allow him to stay after school unless we knew adult supervision was available. We even started monitoring what he watched on TV. These things sound obvious enough, but you have to understand this kid was never in trouble prior to seventh grade. What on earth happened, we head-shakingly, hands-up-in-the-air-in-bitter-defeat wondered.
As we sat in each teacher’s room this week at the infamous first quarter Parent Teacher Conferences, hearing more of the same, there was another resounding theme. It started with his science teacher. She said she understood the seats we filled. She, too, had trod the often treacherous journey of raising a newly minted teenage boy. She assured us, ‘This too shall pass’. It is normal. Our son is normal. Then she said something that really struck me, as the mother of a child who has somewhat been coined a ‘troublemaker’ for the first time in his young and virtuous life.
His teacher said this: “When your son is calm and pays attention, his peers follow suit. That is probably why he is being singled out right now. He is a natural-born leader.” And something clicked deep within my weary, wrestling, food-for-thought teenage mommy mind. My son isn’t a troublemaker (well, technically, this year, he is), but more importantly, he is a LEADER!
When he applies himself, his ability to grasp new concepts is ridiculously amazing. His teachers have all agreed, despite his rabid motor mouth and clowning-in-the-classroom tendencies, that his young mind is composed of the stuff teachers dream of for their beloved students. My son is a very bright young man. When his intelligence is funneled in the right direction, his abilities are astounding.
My son is not alone in this fight. He is one of several in his very small school and very small class that have struggled this year. I blame society, electronics, gaming, peers, too quickly growing up, and the overwhelming access to information at the fingertips of our adolescents before they are truly able to handle such a wealth of worldly data. Heck, most adults are not able to properly navigate the healthy checkpoint of normal media use with an overwhelming tendency to get lost in the myriad of information available, most of which is absolutely not beneficial to our healthy human lives!
Please do not get me wrong. We have held our son accountable for his actions and very much see this season of life as a springboard for growth, maturity, lessons learned, and forward progress. This has been a family battle, and we are all very much fighting on the front lines for this kid, who is the best of the best! (In my not-so-humble opinion).
I bet nearly every parent of a seventh-grade (or slightly younger or older) teenage boy can relate. In some ways, they are absolutely out of control! In others, the mind-power they are struggling to release is nothing short of world-changing. And…. these are the future leaders of our world! Some days, that thought is undeniably terrifying. Other days, when I remind myself that these teenage years are simply a blip in the overarching journey of becoming the young man my son is destined to be, I am beyond excited to see where his passion, humor, intelligence, and beautiful heart lead him. I believe it will be somewhere wonderful. My 13-year-old son just has some major growing up to do like every other 13-year-old teenage boy. Right now, he’s trying to figure out who he is and learning all about this world he lives in while going through the rollercoaster ride of puberty. We have a long way to go before he’s a grown man, but I know he is naturally a kind, loyal, and energetic leader, which will inevitably take him far into a successful future.
I just have to remember that and believe in the best of him while we go through these tough teen years together. And when I think about all his amazing talents and traits, I have a good feeling we’re gonna make it through okay. No. Scratch that. I KNOW so.