Sitting with a group of girls in middle school brought me face-to-face with an energy that is both unique and amazing. Most of the girls were new to each other, and so at first they were a bit wary of sharing, which is expected after all the dramas that swirl around them every day at school. Once we did our 1st icebreaker, they quickly started popping.
The metaphor of their energy and behaviors being like popcorn struck me after that 1st hour and a half meeting together. The girls started out somewhat quiet, just like kernels lying in oil at the bottom of a pot. As they started to heat up and feel more comfortable and safe, there was more talking and movement. When they began sharing about girls who drive them crazy at school, they started popping up out of their seats and demonstrating with great flair and drama what these annoying girls looked and acted like. They were on FIRE!
They opened up and told more personal stories that were funny, sad, exaggerating, and real all at once. And that is why I love working with girls at this age. They are so alive, in the moment, real, and raw. You see their strengths and vulnerabilities shine through despite their insecurities about how they look and how they come across. Listen to the words of this 8th grader Lauren.
“People at school can be so rude. This bitch asked me why my neck looked a different color than my face, so I yelled at her that I’m terrible at putting on my makeup, ok! I wear it to cover up my zits, and I’ve never had just one, it’s like my whole face is covered; as if I’m not insecure enough, I don’t need people pointing out that I have acne. I know I’m not very pretty, and zits just make it worse. I never cared about my looks until 8th grade when I started noticing boys; I just want to be noticed.”
Whew! Lauren spat out that riff in one breath. Just like popcorn popping in a kettle, middle school girls exhibit so much energy that is up and down and every direction in between, and they can accomplish all of this in one moment in time.
“Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.” Ranier M. Rilke
Girls at this age get a bad rap. If someone tells you that they are a middle school teacher, the typical response is, “You poor thing!” Instead of judging and avoiding them, accept them for who they are, warts and all. Or better yet, see their behaviors not as warts but as the beautiful expression of who they are as they struggle to find themselves.
P.S. I will begin posting free audio podcasts entitled: Raising Daughters on iTunes in the next several weeks; I’ll let you know in future blog posts the dates of these weekly podcasts. Please send me ideas for these so I can tailor it to your needs.