Having school-aged kids is a nerve-wracking experience. I had one sail through middle and high school with no problems. He told me later that being tall for his age, dark & brooding, made kids a little afraid of him, and no one messed with him.
Now we have a girl in fifth grade. She'll be in middle school next year, and I'm completely losing my mind over it.
Our girl is sweetness and light. Always age-appropriate in a world where kids we closely know her own age would discuss french kissing and perform gyrating dance moves, constantly confusing her. We are active in our church. She loves the kids' church group and we try to do as much as possible with them. (Oh, these kids are not the gyrating ones. Ha ha.)
Sweeteness and light. We talk to her frankly about the changes to her body, sex, etc. and she giggles but has zero fear of asking either parent or big brother a question most would consider awkward. I tell her she can ask us anything. She does. Boy does she ever. I enjoy the different shades her dad turns as he hears what she's asking this time.
Yesterday, I was off from work and was able to hear her walk in the side door after her bike ride home. I ask her how her day was, and immediately hear the tone of sadness and distress when she say "Okay."
Protective Mom Gene kicks in.
I ask her what is wrong. She mumbles under her breath that it's nothing. I try to cajole, hug, and wheedle the answer out of her. "You can tell me anything. You know this."
For a good 10 minutes, we try to get her to spill it. I am picturing bullies. I am already in my car, mentally, driving to school to get to the bottom of this!
She FINALLY capitulates, in tears.
She's a patrol member and there's a boy who won't follow the rules and told her "You're not the boss of me!"
That's it. I almost laughed my relief, but didn't.
"Oh honey, don't get upset over that. You do your job and if he doesn't listen to your instructions, tell Coach and move on. The end. It's the kid's problem. He's the poop head. Just tell coach and move on. This is nothing that should even make you upset."
She is sweetness and light and wears her heart on her sleeve. She doesn't understand not following rules.
How do I toughen her up without changing her inner self? Nerve-wracking, I tell you.