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Unexpected lessons as a middle school mom

Although I felt prepared to have a son in middle school, the painful lessons I have learned about parenting this year have helped me relate to parents everywhere.
by Michelle Sutherlin Modified: May 19, 2014 at 9:03 am •  Published: May 19, 2014

I've learned some lessons this year. And most of them were unexpected.

I felt very prepared to have a child in middle school. I had spent three years as a middle school counselor and was bringing my son with me to the school where I work. I knew a lot about middle school. And I knew just about everything there was to know about my son.

I thought.

Man, I majorly miscalculated.

It's not that this year has been bad. It hasn't. All in all, it has been great.

But I didn't expect how I would feel when all the normal things I address when parents are concerned about their son or daughter would happen to my son. It was an extreme role reversal.

I have been known to educate parents about frontal lobe development and their son or daughter's behavior reverting to that of a toddler being totally normal. But when my son started doing this, it didn't feel normal. It felt really, really awful.

There have been moments this year when I have felt too uncomfortable with my reaction to my son's normal behavior to talk to anyone about it. I have many times felt like a fraud or a phony. I have thought, "Here I am, giving you advice. But I really have no idea what I am doing."

I have learned lessons about patience and tolerance and laughing at my mistakes. I have learned that it is OK to talk to other parents about how I feel inadequate and alone. I have learned that unless you have walked through this specific fire, you can't feel this type of burn.

So, to all the parents I offered my "sage" advice to before this year, I am sorry. I didn't get it. I didn't know how you felt. But now, I do.

The biggest lesson I have learned is that I really have no idea what I am doing. My amazing husband and I are getting through parenting an amazing, intelligent, thoughtful, interesting, creative, witty, talented pre-teen as best we can.

There have been many highs. Some of my favorite moments this year have been watching my son have that "ah-ha moment" about politics, social norms, deeper meanings or philosophical arguments. It's truly a joy to watch him make connections and reach a deeper level of understanding in life.

There have also been many painful lows. Most of them have been my failure as a parent to build the right boundaries, follow through with my promises, keep my temper, not react to my child's mood, avoid letting him push my buttons and much more.

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by Michelle Sutherlin
NewsOK Contributor
Michelle Sutherlin is a middle school counselor in Norman, OK, who works with students ages 11-15 daily. She is also a mom to two boys, Ryan (12) and Will (9). She and her husband have been married for 16 years. She loves middle school students so...
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