My daughter finishes seventh grade this week and turns 13 in a month. As the invitation came in for the end-of-seventh-grade achievement award ceremony, I mentioned to Madison that I would be going to the ceremony. She replied "there's no reason to come; I am not getting any awards." This got me thinking about all that she has achieved this year on a personal, if not academic, note. Surely, there are things to celebrate that go unnoticed at formal awards ceremonies but that definitely deserve a private mention.
I was reminded of the talk that I gave to parents of tweens and teens at our local middle school at the start of the year. During the talk I shared the most recent neuropsychology findings about the development of the teen brain in a wonderful National Geographic article aptly titled "Beautiful Brains." Last month I read Michelle Icard's great book, Middle School Makeover: Improving the Way You and Your Teen Experience The Middle School Years, and was reminded again of all that is taking place during this stage of development.
I feel we so easily forget to look with awe at the development that takes place during these years. Perhaps a new phrase was needed to remind me that this stage can be, and should be, just as fascinating as the newborn-to-toddler development stage. So I have coined the term Nween, for newborn teen, to help remind all of us to marvel at the changes taking place and to appreciate them in the same way we do the earlier developmental stages of childhood. Nween goes one step further than tween to prompt us to see this stage as adorable and cute and precious, just as we do the newborn years.
I reflected on the year and started to think about all that my daughter has accomplished in her second year of middle school. So many accomplishments came to mind and I decided to give her some awards of my own design to mark the occasion.
The Social Perseverance Award: We all know that during the middle and high school years our social lives, and finding the right peer group, take on much greater significance. I really admire the way my daughter has continued to work at finding the right group of friends for her. She has had sleepovers trying out different configurations. She has shared with me her astute observations about different situations as she learns about different levels and types of friendship. Along the way she has tried on different personalities. I recognized her in Michelle Icard's great blog post on this topic titled Is Your Middle Schooler Divergent? (I Hope So!).
The Learning to Recognize What Having a Good Friend Feels Like Award: As Madison tried out the different groups of friends I was reminded of a quote I read a few years ago that went something along these lines: "How can your child know what a good friend is if they haven't experienced what a bad friend feels like?" Throughout various situations she has observed how being with certain people makes her feel. She has learned that her cousin Kate, who is the same age as her, always listens and that she feels very comfortable in her company. She shared with me that being around one of her friends always make her feel great about herself. She only knows those successes because it isn't the case with everyone. I am so thankful that she is making those observations and learning these life lessons as a Nween.
The Helping Your Mom Choose A Wig Award!: Of course I would have loved for Madison to miss out on this experience, but I am so thankful that she was a great friend and support to me during my six months of chemotherapy. When I needed to go wig shopping I asked her if she would like to come with me, she said "yes!". When I was diagnosed with breast cancer and was told there was no way to avoid chemotherapy and the subsequent hair loss, if you would have told me that going wig shopping would be a great day I would never have believed you. Madison and I had a blast trying on different wigs. She gave me honest, straightforward feedback as I tried on different colors and lengths. I will always look back fondly on that experience and the times that she offered to do my make-up to help give my face a bit more color. She also helped me unveil my new shorter, after-chemo hairstyle. I know it can't have been easy for her to see her Mom wearing a headscarf, without eyebrows or eyelashes, but Madison was always positive about it and this gave me the confidence to continue to get up and out during this period of time.
So, as I sit in the bleachers at the seventh-grade award ceremony this week, these are the accomplishments that my Nween has achieved and that I am very proud to be celebrating! Cheers to the Nween years!