We have had at least one child in middle school since 2006, but this year marks our last year ever with a middle-schooler in the family. My husband and I are a bit wistful – not just because our youngest is growing up, but because we always found the middle school years to be some of the best for our family life.
If you have a child entering middle school, be happy. I think you are getting ready to enter some of the most fun and fulfilling times you can have as a family.
One of our favorite parts of being parents of a middle-schooler is that the quality of dinner table conversation improves significantly. Conversations that open with “guess what” and close with the word “fart” fade away, and actual conversations emerge. As they grow, they begin to read real news sources and discuss real news in real time. They begin to challenge our opinions, and watching our kids grow into thinking individuals with well reasoned arguments is thrilling. During middle school, our dinner table conversations expand to include good discussions about current events, or even literature and history.
Also, I have to admit that the daily stories they come home from school with are way more interesting once they hit middle school. When they were younger, I sometimes had a difficult time feigning an interest in the more mundane details of their day, but in middle school, the juicier stories are actually pretty interesting, and the best part is older kids are so much better at telling those stories! They tell them just right for either the shock value or a laugh, and it is fun to listen.
One of my favorite changes to our family life, though is that middle school marks the end of parent run weekend sports and the beginning of playing sports for their school teams. Playing school sports is awesome for family life. My kids will have practice at school until 5, and then I pick them up, head home and they shower while I put dinner on the table. After dinner, they do homework and then usually head off to bed. Plus, school games are during the week which means no more Saturdays spent sitting on a folding chair thinking about all the stuff you should be doing around the house. With school sports, and really any school extra-curricular activity, our schedule becomes very regular. Carpool pickup at 5 during the week, and Saturdays spent at home. I love, love, love our middle school routines.
But perhaps the best part of middle school is that the real pressures haven’t started yet. No college pressures are bearing down yet, no one is driving yet, and their curfews are still relatively early. Middle school is a time of growth and exploration, but they’re still young enough to need us – sometimes! My kids have tried so many different sports and activities in middle school – some have lasted and some haven’t, but they all have contributed to their growth as individuals. It is so much fun watching them grow, and getting glimpses of the grown ups they will become.
My husband and I are truly sad to begin this final year of having a middle-schooler in the family. We plan on enjoying it to the hilt because we know we will never be in this special place again.
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Maureen Paschal is a freelance writer, a teacher-librarian, and a mom of four almost grown kids. She blogs at Raising The Capable Student where her goal is helping parents to keep family life a priority and school success in perspective. Her work has been featured in On Parenting from the Washington Post, Grown and Flown, Perfection Pending, and Today Parents.