Middle school is difficult. Throw puberty into the mix and well it is a recipe for pure and utter chaos. Whether you are a boy or a girl makes no difference. Each comes with its own tangled web of complex issues, triumphs, and troubles. Each of these tests are there to refine, define and prepare your child for who they are, and who they will become.
Right now my oldest son is on the cusp of becoming a teenager. It is apparent to all who know him that as a young man he is dealing with an immense amount of pressure. Going through puberty, being placed into a public school setting for the first time, finding his place in the social hierarchy that is formed during these years, not to mention his spiritual life. Each and everyday my heart aches as I see the challenges that he faces. Pressure to perform in school, pressure to fit in with his friends, pressure to do well in the activities he has chosen, pressure to be the child/man God has called him to be. Each day I choose to hand my worry over to God, in faith, trusting that His perfect hands are capable of holding my son up during this time. Knowing that as I turn him over to God’s care and protection he is not alone.
I remember middle school… I remember how difficult life was each and every day. The constant internal struggle as you try to figure who you are and who you are going to be. Striving to prove to the world that you are no longer a child, knowing that you are not yet an adult. It was and still is a very confusing time in the development of any adolescent. As far as this goes, some things never change. On the other hand certain things have changed. Things like societal pressure. Yes, that type of pressure was there when I was in middle school but they are a different set of pressures now.
As we continue to develop as a society the expectations we place on our youth also change. Children and young adults are in a constant state of flux as they try to keep up with the latest and greatest gadgets, apparel, games, shoes and whatnot. Parents struggle and even in some cases go into financial debt to make sure that their beloved children are not left behind. It is a rat race and no one wants to be last. The damage that we are doing to our children while not irreparable is blatant. We are raising a generation who value things over people… objects over personal connection. Materialism over compassion. When a young adult is faced with the decision to fit in or be ostracized they are more likely to lean towards conformity. It is what we as humans crave, to belong. This is what I fear most in raising my boys in this time and age. The pressure to conform, to be a follower when they were called to lead. It is in this time when I am gripped with the fear of what ‘might be’ that I remember God is for us not against us.
Puberty is arduous. It is a time in which not only your body changes, thanks to hormones, but you have no idea why you are feeling the way you do, and don’t understand how to control it. With boys it can manifest in many different ways. Obviously there are the visible physical changes: change in voice, growth spurts, hair growth, smelly feet, & acne. There are also the emotional changes: inexplicable anger, rage, verbal outbursts, confusion, assertiveness or becoming withdrawn. There is another aspect that is not usually covered when it comes to young men and or women in puberty and that is the spiritual changes. These are changes that deal with identity in Christ, lack of faith, reasoning and logic in regards to their belief system. For young men this is specifically very difficult. It is counter-culture for young men and women in this day and age to want to remain pure. Pure in mind, body, & spirit.
In school whether it be private or public the pressure to be cool, experienced, in the know, at times is unbearable. Daily online, in stores, magazines, and advertisements, our sons and daughters are subject to a visual onslaught of images. Images that tell them how to dress, what looks are in and which ones are out, what behavior is deemed “cool” and appropriate. Boys in general are visual creatures as we all know. For them to be bombarded continuously with images of scantly clad women posing sometimes in obscene ways while going through this struggle with puberty makes purity even more difficult. Throw in the fact that being a virgin is an embarrassment to main stream society.
I am a firm believer of allowing kids to be kids, not forcing adult thoughts and behaviors onto them. I don’t want my boys to have to grow up before they have a chance to enjoy what being a child is all about. Children will model what they see and hear. This is inherently in them… cultivated by society, to want to be like grown ups just like Mom & Dad. I respect and am honored to be in a position to protect my sons in this aspect of their lives. While I know that it is impossible to keep their eyes completely pure (unless I locked them in a bubble, and believe me sometimes I wish I could.) I also know that the example my husband and I set for our soon to be teenage son is critical. Love, respect, compassion, kindness, integrity, and modesty. These are attributes we value. These are things that we hope and pray to model to our children. To love as Christ loves, to respect humankind, to have compassion for those who are in need, and respond kindly. To live our lives with integrity openly with humility. These are the things that we as parents pray for.
With the presence of God, with His guidance, a healthy dose of humility and humor this adventure called parenthood is the ride of a lifetime. What a ride it is…