Ahhh…. sleepovers. What’s not to like about a sleepover for a 12 year-old girl? There’s junk food, hair braiding, movie viewing, story-telling, and even mattress-surfing (down a carpeted staircase).
But all good things must come to an end. And even if you’ve been given plenty of notice via your mother’s text, to be dressed and ready by 10:45 a.m. for 11:00 Mass, well…. Things are bound to get ugly.
I consider myself very lucky. I have two teenagers and a ‘tween. That’s lucky? Yes. I’m lucky because I have already witnessed the ups and downs of my two oldest children navigating their way through middle school. These are a couple of very awkward, emotional years when ‘tweens are young children one day and sassy teenagers the next. When times get rough – like getting picked up from a really fun sleepover — to go to church – I know that she will survive despite her foul mood, as will I.
But there was a time, not that many years ago, when eye rolling and stubborn resistance to my parental demands would have nearly sent me over the edge. I didn’t fully believe, at that time, that these were normal parts of adolescence. Today, when one of my children appears to be digging in her heels, I know to smile, take a deep breath, and repeat in my head, This too shall pass.
My ‘tween’s church-ready outfit of wrinkled t-shirt, cotton short-shorts with bare legs and UGGs made me smile since I knew this was clearly a mild act of rebellion. Thankfully her bag contained yoga pants and a clean top which she promised would be on by the time we reached the church. But as I now know from experience, situations can turn on a dime for a middle schooler lacking sleep. Getting one of the boots back on became a monumental challenge, followed by tears and a refusal to go into the church crying. This too shall pass.
It’s helpful to remind oneself that God accepts everyone into his house of worship, regardless of what they are wearing, if they are late or if there are traces of a recent meltdown in the form of red, tear-streaked cheeks. It’s helpful to remind oneself of God’s unconditional love when your family is late to church and is being ushered down to the only available seats, in the second row from the priest.
If I were another parishioner watching our arrival, I would have taken pity. We are just a normal family, trying our best. For one hour each week, we can join others to be reminded that we are all human, making human mistakes each and every day. And each day we are given the opportunity to try again to be our best.
“Father Mark is staring at me,” whispered my youngest. “Do you think he’ll point me out?” Anyone who knows me well knows that I am prone to very untimely nervous laughter. This was one of those times. I could just imagine the scene. Young Lady, what could possibly be bothering you so much today? Our beloved Pastor really is the type who might try to cheer her up and get a chuckle from the parishioners, and if he did, I would never hear the end of it.
He did not point her out, thank God, and as the Mass continued with its familiar, soothing music, prayers and sense of community, I could sense the release of tension from my family, especially from my 12 year old. She even whispered, “I’m sorry,” which is what she always does once she snaps out of these occasional funks. I remember this well from my other kids. It’s almost as if they can’t help feeling out-of-sorts and miserable for short spurts of time at this age. This is a normal part of being an adolescent.
Regardless of what it is that is bothering them– lack of sleep, overwhelming workloads, friendship troubles, self-esteem issues, or even nothing in particular – ‘tweens (and teens) are oftentimes like very young children, needing more than anything to be reassured that all will be okay. My daughter got that reassurance at Mass, surrounded by her family and others who had come to focus on something greater than themselves for an hour — and to be reminded that despite life’s challenges, big or small, everything will be okay.