I’ve learned a lot from my daughter, as she went through sixth grade. I believe she taught me how to make it through middle school. Since the beginning of the year, I have fretted over the many issues that could possibly erupt in what many call “The Devil’s Playground”. I have prayed for her precious innocent heart to be protected as I covered my fear in faith that she of all people, could find a way to navigate around the toxic land mines that hide beneath the corridors of drama and bullying. Each day, as I dropped her off in front of a building with crowds of kids that filled the landscape, she would say “Amen” to my prayer and smile with a “I love you mom!” I would watch as she walked away entering the barrier of budding teens. I could never watch for too long, as the cars behind me pushed forward and the cars ahead pulled away…
I sighed with a tiny twist of angst, every single time.
She’s my little girl.
Every single day, I was impressed that she could carry herself with the perfect combination of humility and integrity, wading through the masses, going to her classes with her head held high and her heart intact. I simply was in awe of her intention to be outgoing and kind to all, with careful discernment regarding those who she politely ignored or responded to with strong conviction. She discovered serious disparity to her own values, and yet she was able to manage “The Devil’s Playground”, by walking on her own unshakable moral ground, built with a perspective of principles too strong to break.
I was amazed.
Sure, there was some bullying. It wasn’t all nice and easy. But she was able to stand up to those kids, even dismissing an eighth grader throwing something at her, as being “ridiculous”. I would get the daily updates on goings on, as she would vent her frustrations and irritations to me after school. The culture of middle school is truly a budding ground of diversity that indeed represents the real world.
My girl succeeded through investing in her studies and flying under the radar of drama and peer pressure, by taking her own route instead. Sure, she had many friends in her classes and one close friend that she truly respected as trustworthy. But ultimately, she never belonged in any social circles or cliques… You could say she didn’t fit in, but I look at it a bit differently.
They didn’t fit in.
You see, she had no desire to join any of those peer groups.
They didn’t appeal to her.
Was she lonely at times?
But I told her over and over again, that she was so much better off being a bit lonely, than walking through the wreckage of middle school’s wavering social circles. She had two best friends, and a family that loved her. She spent her free periods working in the office and she joined guitar club that met after school. Her passion was tied to working hard to achieve her 4.0 grade average, and she was dedicated to her swim team commitment. She bonded with her swimming peers and had her social fill through those long hard practices and weekend meets. And when the week seemed especially lonely, she always had her bestie fix on the weekends with her beloved BFF from church who goes to a different school. She adored her teachers, and enjoyed learning.
She actually loved school this year.
That’s surely saying something, isn’t it?
And here’s the best part of all…
My girl hasn’t changed one bit.
She is still the kind, loving, faithful, innocent, beautiful gift of a girl that she was when the year began.
Sure, she’s a bit more mature, more aware. But she hasn’t turned into some middle school monster, tainted by ingesting the poison of public middle school.
We finished the school year off with her performing in the all school talent show. She did not want to do this at all. Her three male guitar club teachers had heard her singing one day at practice, and told her she needed to participate in the show. They encouraged her to go for it, and they wanted to back her up with their guitar and piano playing abilities. She was uncomfortable with the idea, and I told her they must really believe in her if they asked her to do it! She had their relentless support and even wanted her to sing two songs! She politely obliged.
Bless her heart.
She grew increasingly more insecure about the entire thing, as the day came closer with the dreaded reality of singing in front of 1000 students and the entire faculty to boot. She had only sang in front of people one time in her life, when she was only 7 years old. We talked about it every day, and I continued to assure her that those teachers had confidence in her and so should she. A few weeks prior to the show, she really loathed the idea of singing two songs… so I suggested she set a limit and take out one song. Her teachers respected her wishes.
She was still agonizing over her one upcoming performance.
The decision was final, and although I supported her either way, I continued to affirm that the program was set and she needed to go forward with this despite her hesitancy. She knew she needed to as well.
The day came, and she was all nerves, as was I! I was so proud of her for not backing out, and yet so terrified for her to stand in front of all those kids and sing all by herself! Her dad took the day off to come watch her (bless his heart) and we showed up to a gymnasium packed with rowdy kids, the band warming up, and teachers attempting to simmer down the energy of the students celebrating their last day of the school year.
I found my little girl standing in the long line of performers down the hallway leading toward the stage. Little did I know, she was the only sixth grader in the talent show. The only one. The rest were buzzing with excitement, wearing flashy costumes for group dances and others were chatting and pacing while stirring with those pre-show jitters.
Cassidy stood in her place, all alone, quietly waiting.
I walked up to her and asked if she wanted me to stand and wait with her, to which she said yes.
For the next hour, we stood together while each act performed and the crowd went wild with clapping and singing and the gym was ablaze with cheers. As each act finished, my heart pounded, knowing it was just that much closer to her turn to go…
I was a complete and utter mess inside. I tried not to show it, as I kept telling her she was going to be amazing! But after each act, my throat swelled more and my knees shook, knowing my little girl was going to be up on that stage in front of all these kids.
It terrified me to think that if something would go wrong, would she just fall apart on the stage in front of the entire school?
Oh, God how I prayed. I prayed she would simply just make it through.
That hour lasted a lifetime.
“Mom, I’m never doing this again.”
“I know sweetie. I know. I’m so proud of you for following through. And I just know you are going to be AWESOME! The teachers have your back. Remember that. You can do this. You can DO THIS!”
I swear I thought I was going to pass out.
It was her turn.
I’m telling you, there was no moment that encapsulated my mother heart more than this one.
My baby walked up on stage in front of the middle school- I was so terrified to let her go… Not only did I have to let her go to walk the halls, but now I had to let her go to stand in front of them all and expose a part of her that could either be crucified or sanctified.
What would it be?
It was out of my hands, completely.
I held my breath, and my heart…
And my girl, oh my girl.
In her perfect quiet sweetness, her humble meekness…
And The Devil’s Playground soaked in her light.
I couldn’t think of a more perfect way to end the year.
Janine Huldie says
Aw, she totally shined and seriously Cassidy is absolutely amazing!! I cannot say this enough and she most definitely is a force to be reckoned with. You have every reason to be a proud mama 😉
Oh thanks sooooo much Janine!! I am one proud mama!!
Katy @ Experienced Bad Mom says
Woo hoo! Way to go Cassidy and Mama! I loved whoever said, “don’t embarrass her” on the video–perhaps Dad?
We survived and even thrived during our first year of middle school as well. These kids, I tell you, are amazing in their strength and resilience!
It was DEREK!!! Ha! He knows I will go CRAZY…
I’m so glad you guys made it and thrived too!! Our kids are seriously incredible, aren’t they? Oh, how I just love how they continue to blow us away with their strength and courage and tenacity!!! We moms are so blessed, aren’t we?
Thanks SO much for coming by to see this, Katy!! It means so much to me that you did!! 🙂
AHHHHHHHH!! Just love her!! And you’re right, Chris. What a way to put an exclamation point after an amazing year.
Blessings upon her and you, dear one.
I was BLOWN. AWAY. I mean, over 1,000 crazy rowdy kids flooding that gym and she got up there all alone and sang in front of them? I would never. I could never. I was terrified for her!! I’m just so proud of that girl!!
Thank you sooo much for celebrating this incredible moment with me, my precious friend. It means the WORLD to me. <3
Awww! She did great! Good job, Mom! You are raising a great kid.
Thanks so so much Andrea!!! She’s a pretty amazing kid. It’s truly incredible to see her grow into this strong and confident girl. I’m so proud of her!!
Sue Theimer says
oh Cassidy!! I loved every note you sang! I am soooooooo proud of you. . .I think you will be famous someday for sure. . .then you will be a movie star!!! I will go to every movie and tell people you got your Grammy Sue’s genes! ( Seriously, I cannot sing a note) I could not have done what you did, I am totally overwhelmed with your poise, your beauty and your song. I love you, Cassidy!
Ha! Thanks mom!! I read Cass your comment!! I’m SO glad you caught the show!! 🙂 She’s pretty amazing, isn’t she? WOW. What a day…
Adrienne Bolton (@TheMommyMess) says
What a special young lady! This is such a beautiful tribute to her hard work and year. Something I’m sure she will treasure reading one day. I love her voice!
I read it to her!! And she loved it… but felt weird about the video, because of course she doesn’t think she did well… but I think she is just so shy about getting the attention and the praise, bless her heart!!
I could care a less how well she sang… it is that she DID IT, that makes me so proud!! And the response? Nothing more precious to see and hear for my mama heart!!
Hi Chris! She really does have a great voice, not your typical one for a girl her age. It has a little grit in it, LOVE that. (And bless that boy who started the clapping, I was clapping for her myself!) It kind of sounds like people are singing along with her at points too, is that right?
Our kids teach us every darn day. They are so brave, so upbeat, so much joy. I can see where she gets her fabulous sense of self. The apple doesn’t fall far you know.
What a way to go out!!
Aw! Thank you so much for your beautiful encouragement Ceil!! And YES- she does have that ‘grit’… not sure where she gets it. And yes, they started singing along with her!! My favorite part was the cheering at the end… oh it got my heart. Yes- our kids just blow me away sometimes. This day surely did!!
“Go, Cassidy!” “Don’t embarrass her!” haha.. cracked me up.
I remember how nervous you were before she started school and I remember thinking then and hopefully telling you that she was made of the true and good and strong stuff. She wouldn’t break. I once wrote a blog post called “Sixth Grade Will Really Kill You” but it didn’t for me.
Also, I will never look at this song the same way again.
Oh you DID tell me, Tamara!! And you were right, my friend!! I love that you will hold this song sweetly in a new way from now on. I will too… oh I will too. <3
awwww! she’s amazing! good for her and good for you: great teamwork getting through the challenges
It was a triumphant end to that angst in it all!! I’m just so proud of her for going through with it!! Brave girl, that one. 🙂
Kristi Campbell says
Oh Chris. That girl of yours. She’s the light and the hope and the song. I couldn’t really hear how amazing she is in the video because as all videos are, the voice is too drowned out but I could hear how amazing she was and I could feel her holding your hand and not wanting to do it and doing it anyway and I just LOVE HER. And you of course. Always.
Thanks SO much for your sweet encouragement Kristi!! I hate that my phone didn’t get her voice… the sound in there was AWFUL. And then the kids singing with her, kinda drowned out her own voice. But really? I don’t even care how she sang… I was just in awe of her courage to get up there at all- and finish the song. And hearing over 1,000 kids and all the faculty clapping like that?
Oh. My. Heart. BEST mama day EVER.
I am so, so happy that Cassidy stayed true to herself and had a relatively drama free school year. I know middle school can be tough, but I think it gets a bad rap from the few who are truly mean. Most kids are just searching for their place, and they lack the maturity to always do that in a respectful and healthy way.
May Cassidy have a seventh and eighth grade year as good as this one!
I agree Dana!! I was SO worried about middle school from all the big hype about how horrible it is! It wasn’t that horrible at all… Cass handled herself really well, and looked FORWARD to going to school every single day. That says something, doesn’t it? 🙂
lisa thomson says
Oh, my gosh! She is a natural. A star. Her courage is outstanding. Nice share, Chris. I think these things are harder on the parents, LOL>
I swear I thought I was going to pass out! Yeah… so hard on the parents!! LOL Thanks for your sweet encouragement, Lisa!! I think she’s pretty darn brave to get up there in all by herself. Bless her heart!!
Christine!!! I am in tears! Crying! Oh my, just ah-may-zee! She’s a rock star!
OH Allie!! You made me cry just knowing this made YOU cry!!! OH, how I just adore you for that!! Thank you, my friend. So so much… Your precious response means the world to my mama heart!!
Oh wow, she was amazing!! I really commend her for doing something this and pushing through despite how nervous she was and she sounded so so fantastic. (By the way, Eve watched it with me and was dancing and clapping her hands, so I assume she feels the same way!)
Aw!! SO sweet that Eve was dancing and clapping her hands!! Just so adorable!! Thanks so much for your sweet encouragement, Bev!!
Wow, Christine, I know exactly how you must have felt waiting in line with here. This is a wonderful tribute to your daughter at the end of her first middle school year, and your words will be so precious to her someday if not already.
My kids said she has a great voice! God bless you both, and may he carry her safely through next year and be her fortress always, protecting all the wonderful gifts he has given her.
Oh Hillary… your comment is just such a blessing to me! Thank you for your beautiful encouragement, my friend!
another jennifer says
She did great! And I have no doubt her mom has a little something to do with how well she adjusts to life. Her soul just shines through, much like her mom’s. xo
AW!!!!! Damn… you made me cry. <3