Hop On the Roller Coaster of Junior High

Junior high is a trying time for all teens -- but seeking out good friendships helps.

Girl Drama is all that.  For those of you lucky enough to have seen the film Mean Girls, you know what I’m talking about (And for those of you who need to see it, get a move on)  I have not exhausted the subject of girl drama because whether you're 14 or 48, that business will age you faster than a lifetime of sun worship and cigarettes. 

Junior high could be it’s own theme park.  Just think of the wonderful rides…Adolescent Anger, The Crying Game, The House of Haunted Hormones, Same Clothes Castle (where everyone is in yoga pants and Uggs…) and Snow White and her 7 Cronies…imagine the fun when Snow White reduces everyone on the ride to tears because the boy she likes doesn’t like her back – and that’s YOUR fault.  A roller coaster of emotions and I’m waiting at the bottom to see what’s coming down.  Expect the unexpected, that’s for sure.

I was so smug with my boys.  They ate, they drank juiceboxes, ate some more and played with that thing in the basement…X Box? Nintendo?  I don’t know…maybe there was a ping pong table too…but I didn’t hear a peep out of them.  Easy as pie. Enter junior high with my daughter and I had entered a world unforeseen; sideswiped by emotions on steroids, eyes that rolled so far back into her head I thought they were stuck and a new fragrance called, “attitude” which she sprayed on any unsuspecting family member if they got too close.  I’m sorry but on That's So Raven, Raven Simone didn’t display any of the behavior I was observing and “Lizzy McGuire” actually LIKED her parents!!  What was happening?  Where had I failed? And who was living in my daughter’s room?

And then her friends took over.  I thought I was the most important person in her short, little life but apparently I didn’t get the memo.  Her friends were everything; they had replaced everyone in my house except the dog.  She lived, breathed and slept at their houses.  She poured her heart out to THEIR mothers (gasp – I hoped she wasn’t telling them too much) and she disappeared for hours, okay days, into the basements of the ‘friends’ that she considered her new family.  These girls had been a part of her life since she was little but never had they been so co-dependent on each other; they were a yin to her yang…they understood her better than I did and maybe that was okay.  These girls are my little heroes because unlike the girls in the film Mean Girls, these girls are sweet and kind.  They are good.  They get it and they love each other.

My situation is unique; I know that.  Junior High has probably wreaked more havoc on more children than the scary clowns at the circus.  The emotional turmoil, the insecurity, the anxiety and the drama… and if you’re at the junior high theme park, it’s a frightening version of “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.”   You can’t wait to see your child grow up and go to junior high – but underneath it all are some rough waters. 

I love my daughter’s best friends like they are my own.  They speak kindly to each other, they love and respect each other; they listen.  They don’t leave each other out and they work hard to make each other feel good when all they really feel is bad.  I love that each of their mothers takes great care of my daughter and they know I do the same for them.  We operate silently -  picking up, dropping off, feeding, waving from the porch or the car window…listening for distress signals that emanate from the back seat and then listening carefully to hear how they get resolved.  These women have my back and I have theirs. 

One day, my not so little girl will look back and realize how lucky she was to have had the life raft of friends that she did during the most challenging time of her childhood.  Perhaps I am naïve enough to think that these friendships will continue through high school, but my gut tells me they are up for the challenge.  Girls don’t leave their best friends behind…especially when the ride looks a little scary.  I suspect they’ll grab hands and jump right on.

Jennifer Fisher January 24, 2012 at 07:23 PM
As always, I love your column, Debby! You're right that good friends can get you through almost anything. One of my closest friendships was formed on the battleground of junior high.
Elizabeth Abrams January 24, 2012 at 07:31 PM
I'm filing this one away and keeping it in a safe place for when my girls reach JH! Sounds like you have a very special daughter with some wonderful friends. Thanks for sharing!
Debby Shulman January 25, 2012 at 01:14 PM
Liz - it's so sweet that we can both relate to what the other one is experiencing. Love what you write and I remember it so well!


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