Friday, March 6, 2015

Those Awkward Years (And How to Love Your Kids Through Them)

The highlight of my week in third grade was when Mom would drop me and my sister off at the local Roller Rink. Carpeted walls.  KC and the Sunshine Band playing "S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night!".  The mirrored disco ball. The hokey pokey.  The dice game.  Couples only.  That funky smell of the spray they use in the roller skates to "disinfect" them.  

Yeah, it's still the same.  

If you don't believe me, go to the roller rink.  It will take you back. 

I have some good memories from third grade, but honestly, it was a tough year for me.  I was overweight, wore glasses, had no confidence, was totally insecure and nobody really liked me.  During "couples only" at the roller rink, I was always sitting and watching everyone else holding hands, slowly going round and round the rink, wishing I was out there skating with someone like everyone else, but no one ever asked me.  I wasn't exactly what you would call popular and I was socially awkward.

I think it started when we were sitting against the wall at gym class and we had to sit "Indian style" (it wasn't a politically incorrect thing to say back then - now we call it "criss cross applesauce").  I felt a bubble in my tummy and tried to straighten out my legs to keep it from escaping, but my teacher yelled at me and made me sit "Indian style" again.  Before I even knew it was coming, my "tummy bubble" escaped and it thundered loudly against the wooden suspended floor in the gym.   Everyone looked at me "Ewww!!!  Gross!!"  

Giggles. 

Pointing. 

Judging. 

Like no one else ever did it but me!  

It was the end of my reputation, if I ever had one.  Oh, do I feel for kids in school!  One good thing about third grade for me was my friend, Jimmy.  He had a wooden leg.  I thought that was pretty cool but nobody else would talk to him. It's like they were afraid of him. I never understood that.  I would sit with Jimmy at recess on the bench and he would teach me math since he couldn't play on the playground equipment like everyone else.  I liked Jimmy a lot.  But I hated third grade. I hated math too, but that's another blog.

Did you ever have a year like that?  An awkward, socially destructive, frustratingly difficult year?  Oh, it's the worst.  The only thing worse is seeing your child live through a year like that.  If I didn't know those difficult days were what God used to build so much of who I am, I'd give anything so my kids would not have to go through it at all. But I know He taught me to become more compassionate, empathetic, humble and sensitive to others through those experiences. 

Romans 5:3-4 tells us, "We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation." Your child's character is going to strengthen through their struggles. They will become more empathetic, more humble, more compassionate and a lot more sensitive to others who are struggling.

If "awkward years" describes your child, share your stories of your awkward years with them.  Make them laugh.  Listen.  Hug them a lot.  Encourage them. Teach them the truth about who they are, according to God's Word. Be patient. Trust God and try not to "fix" it (I know that's a hard one)!

And one more thing...

By all means, please...don't ever insist that they sit "criss cross applesauce" on the gym floor. (smile)

2 comments:

Rick Barry said...

Yes, I remember the roller rink. We did those activities, plus the Limbo and Four Corners.

Eighth grade was the one I hated. A student teacher who tried to do dumb social-psychological experiments as teaching. The awkwardness of wanting to be treated like I was older when adults still viewed me as younger... Perhaps if we all think back to the grade we disliked the most it would help us to encourage those still enduring it. Thanks, Leslie.

Leslie Nease said...

AMEN!! :) Thanks Rick!!

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