I have a rising 6th-grader who is the greatest human being on the planet (totally unbiased opinion, obviously).
Currently, we’re in the middle of the Covid-19 quarantine. So, she hasn’t had the same experiences most 5th-graders have prior to entering middle school. No cool locker tours, end-of-year parties with awards, or a graduation ceremony.
A 6th-Grader’s Dilemma
Over the last week, her class schedule for the upcoming (6th grade) school year was released online. After navigating the website for approximately 72 hours, I was able to figure out how to download it.
I sat down with her to discuss it, and my typically calm, collected, low-maintenance firstborn spiraled into a pit of despair and anxiety.
“What if I don’t have any classes with my friends?”
“What if I can’t make it to my locker between classes in enough time?”
“What if I have to sit alone at lunch?”
“I’m not going to middle school! You can’t make me!”
Me: Blinks. Blinks again. Opens mouth, but no words come out. Shuts mouth. Blinks some more. Wonders briefly if my child has been possessed.
Yeah, it was a stellar parenting moment.
She started pacing. She was in tears off and on all day. She was in my bed at midnight unable to sleep. She was researching all her classes online. She had one million questions that I had zero answers for.
Homegirl climbed aboard the SS Worst-Case-Scenario and captained that ship for a trip around the world.
And I get it. She’s feeling like we all are—anxious, frustrated, a little untethered, even.
So after I got her settled down in her room, I went back to mine and became first-mate on the SS Worst-Case-Scenario.
Internalizing as a Highly Sensitive Person
See, I’m a highly sensitive individual. Anxious, too—so it’s a REAL FUN PARTY when I’m down. I’ve even been clinically diagnosed, if you wanna get really honest with each other.
So then my mind starts racing.
Your own anxiety is so bad that it’s making your most level-headed kid a basket-case.
I wish God had given her a stronger mom. She deserves better. She deserves more.
That meltdown she had is on you. It’s because you aren’t giving her the stability she needs to manage her own emotions.
I’d like to tell you some beautiful story about a profound moment of peaceful realization I had as the sun rose and the birds sang.
But that’s not what happened.
What happened was I woke up and glared at myself in the mirror. Pretty ticked that I view myself as broken. Pretty ticked that I’m a single mom. Pretty ticked that my kid isn’t excited about middle school because Covid-19 robbed her of the opportunity to transition in a healthy way. In general, pretty ticked.
Then of course it was time to homeschool. So, I walked downstairs and was almost sent into cardiac arrest, because my daughter was already on her computer working. She looked up at me with a huge grin.
“Mama! Look at my gym teacher’s name! It’s Mrs. Sweat. Like, s-w-e-a-t. Get it? SWEAT?”
I approached her cautiously. Suspiciously. Were we really over the nightmare of yesterday/last night? Was I actually still asleep and dreaming?
She was totally over it. She was laughing. She was happy. She was fine. Excited, even.
In that moment, I realized that I had made her reaction about me.
It’s Not About Me
And I wondered how many times I’d done that. How many times had I let my toddler’s Target meltdown make me feel like a bad disciplinarian? How many times had I let my seven-year-old’s emotional outbursts make me feel ashamed she shares my sensitive DNA?
How many times had I made my kids’ actions or reactions a black mark against myself as a mother?
Here’s the thing about parenting when you are a highly sensitive person—you cannot shoulder every struggle your kid has. You cannot internalize it. You cannot make it about you.
All you can do is offer love, offer acceptance, and offer grace.
But you should start by offering those same things to yourself first.