Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Open Door

I have a confession to make. Every day, Monday-Friday, when my daughter walks out of the house to go to school, I close the door, but I don't lock it.  I don't lock it because a little voice in my head says she might run back and say, "I can't do it, mom. Please don't make me go."

She never has. But I persist in this habit because of what happened to her older sister in middle school. She was miserable. I didn't really understand the extent of it for quite a while. I look back with the guilt that I should have helped sooner; I should have known.

She was bullied. She was bullied for being different, for not being rich enough, thin enough, cool enough. For not wearing the right clothes or thinking the right thoughts. For being too smart.

Day after day I drove her to school and as we got closer, she'd be overcome by stomach aches and nausea. I had no choice--I had to go to work and she had to go to school. She didn't tell me what was happening because she knew I had no choice. I think it very nearly killed her.

Middle school is just rough, we tell ourselves. You're just unhappy no matter where you are. But you just get through it. We all got through it, right?

Back to my youngest. She's having the awful growing pains of middle school now. The academic work is manageable. The social challenges are ongoing and often heartbreaking. We've done some intervening on her behalf, with mixed success. We want her to know she can tell us everything. But she is at the age where she is learning that you don't always have to tell everything. And so we worry. What is happening that we might not know?

I had the sudden realization this morning that, if I have never told her that the door is open, then it might as well be locked. I think I haven't told her because I haven't wanted to encourage her to bail out if she is able to go on. But things have been hard lately. She needs to know that I always have the door open for her. I *think* she knows...

"Middle school is rough, but we'll get through it. I want you to know I'll always keep a door open for you. No matter what."

You don't have to go through this alone.


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