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Finding the middle ground in 7th grade

“It’s 7:30am!” I call out to my oldest son, meaning that it’s time to go.

“Are your books packed?” I follow up when I receive no reply.

“Are you ready?” I shout, already annoyed on at least three levels. First, I am before coffee and racing through the morning routine of lunches and whatnot. Second, there is a binder on the dining room table that I know needs to be packed away in his book bag where I have already placed his charged phone (your welcome) and his lunch (your welcome again) and third, my son doesn’t freaking answer me.

Slowly he saunters into the kitchen. His sneakers aren’t on.

I grit my teeth, corralling my tongue, “Baby, I called you three times and you’re not ready.”

“What do you mean?” His voice flares a notch, “I’m ready.”

I point to the book lying open on the table.

“Oh my God, mom!” He huffs, “That will take like one second!”  He moves in on the binder and shoves it in his bag. He forces the zipper closed, jerks his head to the side to get the hair out of his face just enough so I can catch a glimpse of his rolling eyes. “See!” he challenges.

Yeah I see. I see he needs a haircut because even though he wants long hair, my boy doesn’t want to take the effort to use a comb or a little water or gel to make it look more like hair and less like a mop. I see that he needs to straighten his shorts, put on his sneakers, grab a zip-up jacket, and that we have very different ideas about what being ‘ready’ means.

I realize that this moment hits the crux of our relationship issues for the last year or so. I ask him questions he doesn’t want to answer and ask him to do things he doesn’t want to do… “What’s taking you so long? Put away your phone. Don’t you see your friends look people in the eye? Can you not forget your  book/sweatshirt/shoes/whatever? Is your homework done? Must you jump around like a puppy? No one else has blah blah blah. Did you do this that and the other thing…?”

It’s my job, of course, to help this growing up person act more grown up, to follow certain rules of behavior. Simple ones like responding when someone speaks to you, being respectful, taking pride in his appearance or being responsible to more complex ones like standing up for what he believes in, being extra kind for no reason and every reason or getting out of his comfort zone to try new things.

But what I also realize is that my wanting to help prepare him for being an adult is at odds with the person who he is. He is not a grown up yet. He is a barely a teen who has matured and progressed tremendously in the past year. He may not have his back pack ready in the morning on my clock, but he is doing awesome in every class at school. He plays team sports year round. He is practicing for his upcoming Bar Mitzvah. He is fumbling through the social tornado which is Middle School. He still generally always has a smile on his face.

When we get into the car I ask him if he’s got everything.

“Yeah,” he answers without thinking.

“Your phone?” I prompt, forcing him to double check his bag. I’m being a bit of an ass. I know it’s in there, but I want to remind him that he doesn’t know. That he needs to be more prepared.

Growing up isn’t easy or immediate. Every day there are moments that make me quietly cheer and setbacks that make my eye twitch in frustration. It’s an entertaining, maddening road from here to adulthood, but it’s a process that necessitates patience and understanding. It can’t and shouldn’t be rushed, although I often have to remind myself.

After searching around, my son pulls out his phone from his backpack and I can see the boyish relief behind the teenage smirk.

He’s got it.

But we won’t really know until tomorrow.

Meeting in the middle

My baby, baby no more



About Ice Scream Mama

Mama to 3 boys, wife to Mr. Baseball and daughter of a sad man. I have a double scoop every day.

15 responses »

  1. How much do I love your essays?!! I can only imagine what middle school will be like and you’ve helped me catch a glimpse. And you’re doing a great job❤️

  2. Such a pretty picture and beautiful smiles! You all stay blessed!!
    After reading this, it kinda reminded me how my mother was forcing me to be a ‘grown up’ too when i was barely a teenager in the name of preparing me (lol) — typical moms, they can’t just stop caring!
    Thank you for sharing.


  3. eveofreduction

    I loved reading this. My son is in 6th grade : )

  4. I have so been there. My older son is a freshman in college now and we still have to bug him about stuff. My youngest goes to middle school next year so…

  5. I LOVE this.  story of my life (and so much worse with girls, who respond to your nagging with eye rolls, shoulder shrugs (I hate those) and general undisguised disdain).

    • Parenting the teen is tough. It takes all my patience to remind myself that he’s going through more than I am. It’s a transition where everything is transiting. Patience, grasshopper. Not that it’s easy. 😉

  6. I am not quite there yet with my ten year old, but she is showing symptoms of being a teen.

  7. LivingsTheDream

    My kids drive me nuts…but I also have a colleague like this. Expensive new coats have been left on planes, laptops in interstate offices, house-keys inside the house, I-phones in taxis etc etc. Now I treat her like a 7th grader, checking she has everything with her before we leave anywhere!

  8. I am DREADING this day! I will look to your blog for answers on how to deal with a “big” boy. I have two littles at my house currently and always feel like my husband is rushing them to be older than they are, I too am guilty. I need to hold on to their innocence, teach them what is needed and important but keep in mind that they are little and deserve to be little. Good read!

    • Thank you! I appreciate that. And I know it’s cliche but it really does go so fast and then you wonder, what was the rush about. Plenty of time to be big and ignore us. Enjoy them even when they’re totally driving you crazy. Then enjoy them with a big glass of wine! 😉

  9. I organize my 7th grader’s Baseball Bag this morning, after he got out of bed 45 minutes after his alarm went off. I ask “why are you wearing your turf shoes to school?” “My sneakers aren’t here”, though they sit next to him on the floor. He was most confident he had everything. Except for the art folder I got a text about as my train pulled into NYC. 7th Grade Boys club indeed. Get that kid a haircut! 🙂


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