Interview With a Tweenager
Lately, it's been hard to understand my 12 year old. One minute she's super chill and normal. The next she's off the handrails emotional, or snaps at me and throws herself to the floor because I asked if she could hang up her clothes that are coating the entirety of her bedroom. (insert rolling of the eyes) I don't recall being this emo or sensitive. Although, my parents may say otherwise.
What better way to understand what's going on in the world of a middle school young lady than to JUST ASK! So, I buckled up and asked some big questions. It was time to hear their side of life as a tweenager.
I'd like to introduce you to two very bright and vivacious young ladies. My daughter, Holland (left) and her friend for several years now, Brielle (Bree for short). They are 12 and in 6th grade (*cringe*).
Honest Chatter (HC): What is your opinion of middle school vs. elementary school? Do you feel like you were at all prepared for life after elementary school?
Bree: “More freedom and it’s much different environment. I was nervous-cited I guess. Just excited for a fresh start and will I fit in? Will people like me?
Holland: “Middle School moves faster than elementary school and yes more freedom. And it gets really tough and hard because it moves so fast. It’s hard to get from class to class and pack up."
Bree: “More negative elements. More cussing, and bullying is a bigger part of it. More immature kids thinking that serious things are funny. Like yelling things in the hall, like “I’ve been raped!”
Ok - here's where I'm like - I'M SORRY, BUT WHAT? RAPE? They just randomly shout out things like this? *Sigh. Jesus take the wheel.
Holland: “In elementary school, kids who cussed went to the principle. In middle school, the kids cuss to the teachers and the teachers don’t care or they say there’s too much to control so they just let them do it.”
HC: What makes middle school so challenging?
Holland: “The homework is challenging. There’s a lot. I don’t have daycare to go to to keep me busy or help with homework after school."
Bree: “The teachers are more serious and say things like “you’re not going to go anywhere in life if….” (shakes finger)
Holland: “It does feel like there’s a lot of pressure..."
Bree: “Yes, peer pressure. Very much drama. Lots of dating - which seems early.”
Holland: “Um, Bree?” (Smiles and giggles)
Bree: “A lot of boy drama. Or drama from girls who are like “if you don’t wear this you can’t be with us. There’s a lot of peer pressure about boys. The 7th graders pressure 6th graders to just date. I tell them I have my own boundaries, and I don’t want to. I'm fine not dating. Most boys don’t care about personality, it’s just about their looks. One boy I liked who liked me said ‘Oh I don’t like you anymore because you don’t have a big butt.”
Holland: "And what did you say to him? He has a giant friend group who are snotty and rude."
Bree: "He gave me a friendship necklace at Christmas, so I threw it at him!! And said, I don’t want your crap!” (girls high five and giggle)
Holland: “And the boys talk about how girls are pretty all the time! Like that's all they care about."
Holland: "And the 7th graders are mean. I dealt with very mean 7th graders one week. I was told I couldn’t sit in the front tables because they’re “7th grade territory”. They told me to get up and leave."
HC: So, how do you respond to peer pressure of when you feel uncomfortable?
Bree: "It's important to set boundaries. I know my boundaries and will talk to my mom about it if I feel like there's a lot of pressure"
Holland: "I'd go to you (mom) and talk to you about it. I'd ask for your help with a solution."
HC: Do you think it’s different than what I went through?
Holland: “Yes, I think the homework and math is different so it’s hard to get help from you and Dad. You’re trying to learn with me. It’s harder because you try and teach me how you learned and it doesn’t work. It’s confusing.”
Bree: “My mom once said this boy was bullying her and friends so she told the teacher and the teacher swatted the boy and spanked him and he learned from it. Karma bit him in the butt! He fell off the monkey bars and fractured his arm."
Holland: “Now the teachers just say “you need to stop” and the kids are like “ok, whatever” and roll their eyes and keep doing it."
Bree: “We have to go to the counselors and it’s a big ordeal every time something major happens."
HC: What sort of differences do YOU see between how mom and dad grew up and how you’re growing up?
Bree: “Oh yah, I think it was probably more like “This is how you do it, and there’s no other way” and kids listened. Now it’s like kids just yell at adults and it doesn’t matter. There's no respect.”
Holland: “Phones and electronics. Technology. You guys when you were in high school technology was super new. People can say nasty things over text messages and social media stuff. We have to deal with bullies online and you can be hacked and get all your stuff stolen. But all the kids have it, so if you don't, you're not cool.”
HC: What’s your opinion of technology these days?
Bree: “It’s very open!
Holland: “Yes, it’s very open, but it's good for homework. We don’t have to write on paper and scribble, erase and stuff."
Bree: “I think it’s like, once you upload something it’s on there FOREVER. Someone can screen shot and then it just goes on and on. Then we get blamed for putting something online - that it's our fault for putting something out there when we didn't ask for it to be copied or stolen! What frightens me most about social media is what others post, like I may not want to see that stuff. The hash tags are bad. So I just don’t look at hash tags."
HC: What is something you want us adults to understand more?
Bree: “For my family, social media. I try to tell them all my friends have Snapchat and Instagram and it’s embarrassing that I don’t. My mom just says why don’t you text them, but a lot of them cannot give out phone numbers."
Holland: “Definitely the social media. But some things don’t come as easy as you think it does for us. You can’t always protect us from social media. There’s just always going to be something. We are maturing more and things change - maybe you guys aren’t ready to accept that.”
Okay, I'm going to pause here. My daughter. This is where I got up to get a glass of water to help keep the tears from welling up. Whaaaat? Me, emotional? My sweet girl was telling me to accept that she's maturing. She has a valid point though. We CANNOT protect them from it all. Whether she has social media or not, or sees the things on TV or not, or whatever it may be that I'm keeping her from being subjected to.... she may be exposed to it regardless of how hard I try.
HC: What’s most important to you? It can be physical/material things, or it can be something personal like “honesty” or a trait in a friend that’s important to you.
Holland: “MY CAT! Pearl is there when I’m down - I can cuddle her. I’m one of the only people that she’ll cuddle. She’s someone I can talk to when I’m sad. She loves me. She’s my baby, like my child.”
Bree: “MY FAMILY definitely. They’re always there when I’m down. If something’s hard or if I need help, they’re always there when I need them.”
HC: Do you feel it’s helpful to have someone you can trust and talk to outside of mom and dad or family? Why is it sometimes hard to talk to your parents about what’s bothering you?
Bree: “Yes. Well, outside my parents I’d say my sister. Me and her - there’s nothing we could do without each other. If I didn’t have my sister, I’d be like...no, I just can't imagine life without her. She’s like a counselor and my inspiration to live life to the fullest.”
Holland: “Yes. I definitely have Bree I can always go to. I went to her once when I felt like I was scared at home by myself so I FaceTime'd Bree to calm me down. She helped me out!"
HC: Do you sometimes feel like it’s easier to talk to another adult rather than your parents about stuff?
Bree: “Yes, I know I can talk to my mom’s best friend who I see as like family. Or my grandma."
Holland: “Yes, I have Jenni who’s like my second mom that I can depend on or turn to.”
HC: What’s your favorite part of growing up?
Bree: “The freedom! The things that you can do more as you progress in your age."
Holland: “I wanted to ride all these giant rides at Disney Land when I was 5, but now I can! And people trust me more now and I can be left to do something on my own."
Bree: “We can finally get a job and drive!”
Holland: “Right now I want a job! But I can’t! Grrr”
HC: But, what does a job mean to you?
Bree: “To me, it means more responsibility and earning money, so your parents can say “oh you have a job, so you can do this or that…”
Holland: “I want to pay for things so you guys don’t have to. I feel like I want to pay for stuff to make you trust me that I can help, but you always pay. It makes me want to work harder to reach for what I want to pay for. I want to be a dog walker right now!”
HC: What do you and your friends talk about at school?
Bree: “We talk about clothing trends and boys - how we want to get together after school and hang out”
Holland: “Like what we did over the weekend. About what’s going on in our lives. A lot of girls like to talk about who they like, boys. Bree - why’d you look at me when you said that?"
Bree: "Holland dared me to kiss Parker yesterday, but I said I wanted my first kiss to be romantic and special”.
HC: "Didn't we just discuss the difficulties of peer pressure and all the talk about boys boys boys?" (sigh)