This month Addison graduated up to the “youth group” at church.
Up to now all of our activities had been the “little kid” activities. Parents were deeply involved and kept a watchful eye on their kids. We taught bible study, broke up fights, dried tears and got bandaids for skinned knees. We watched our kids race around the playground, climb all over the equipment, pour wood chips on top of each other, pour wood chips down the slide, bury each other in wood chips. Basically, they would bring half the wood chips home from the playground in their socks. We would see them race up and down the stairs, fruitlessly calling “walking feet!” as little legs sped away.
We parents were always there, casting a shadow of parental authority.
Now he is in Youth Group and my responsibility includes dropping off and picking up.
For six years I have held hands and shepherded this little soul through crafts, VBS, bible stories, songs, games and baptism. Although I did a stint as the interim middle school youth director while our church searched for the saint who could do the job properly, I was more than happy to go back to the “littles” once the saint was hired. While littles run and scream, climb and throw wood chips…tweens and teens talk in whispers and are hunched over their phones.
Skinned knees and glue sticks I can handle. Snap Chat and girl drama, not so much.
For six years I have seen the parents of older kids sitting in their cars in the parking lot, waiting for the church bus to return from whatever fun outing the tweens and teens have been on. I have walked past them, holding on tight to a little grubby hand with the idea that someday that might be me pinging around in the back of my mind like a game of Pong. It seemed so far off and I never really concerned myself with what it would be like to have a tween.
Then this week I found myself sitting in the parking lot, waiting for the church bus to return from bowling.
I watched a group of big kids pass through the twilight; laughing, checking their phones, joking with each other. Suddenly one of those big kids was in my car and I realized that it had begun. He and his friends are the youngest of the group but with the close of a car door, his primary years were over.
He has a lot of growing and maturing to do. Middle school starts next week and I feel like we are at the bottom of Mt. Everest, looking up, wondering if I’ve packed enough oxygen. We are not even close to the summit of this adventure called teenage years, merely setting up base camp. Sixth graders are still babies when it comes to middle school and high school as far as I’m concerned. But we have started the climb and I hear that Mt. Everest or middle school, whichever you want to call it is fine with me, is a real sonofabitch.
Thankfully we don’t have to conquer it all at once. I’ll just be here, sitting in my car, waiting for the church bus to pull up.