Furries and Other Middle School Trends: Parenting Tweens + Teens

Middle School. I wasn’t prepared.

I have an amazing son. He’s smart, kind, and thoughtful. Yes, his tendency to leave dishes all around the house, never clean his room, and call me “bro” or “cringy” on the regular drive me a little nutty. But, at the end of the day, he’s a really good kid.

middle schoolThis year, my tween began middle school. He went from a small elementary school with a graduating class of 75 students, to our local middle school that brought seven, small elementary schools and 700 kids together.

The sheltered, little world that my son had occupied for over seven years, suddenly and quickly expanded when he entered middle school.  

Thankfully, he adjusted to his new surroundings with apparent ease. Sure, there were the initial frustrations like forgetting his locker combination, getting to class on time, or organizing his classwork with multiple new teachers and classes. But these growing pains were to be expected and were easy enough to navigate. With a little help and encouragement from friends, his guidance counselor, and with his growing confidence, my middle schooler was doing an amazing job acclimating to his new normal.

Still, I wasn’t naive enough to think that the first year of middle school would go off without a hitch. The age of social media, YouTube, and smartphones combined with good ‘ol fashioned puberty make for an interesting mix…even in our own home.

I figured middle school would throw my son {and me!} a few curve balls before the year was through. There have been many positives, to be sure, but there have been an equal amount of challenges. For example, I wasn’t quite prepared to be hit in the face with a couple of social trends that I had classified in my mind as “junior high,” “high school,” or even adult issues.

Like the game ‘Never Did I Ever‘ that I played as a tween –

never did I ever think my twelve-year-old would tell me that his peers were vaping on the school bus. Never did I ever think my tween would tell me that kids in his middle school classes were meowing, licking and biting one another like cats.

They’re Furries, mom,” he told me.

“Um…..what?!” 

 “I feel like I’ve thrown my kids to the wolves in the Wild, Wild West,” my cousin often tells me when describing middle school, junior and high school from her parenting perspective. This analogy was one that I couldn’t relate to a few months ago. Now, it suddenly rings true.

At the same time, one might argue that this is life. We don’t live in a bubble. People come in all shapes and sizes, if you will. Understanding this, and knowing how to approach and handle tricky, challenging or different situations or incidents is part of learning and growing.

But, my son is twelve. This is all new. More than anything, he needs the benefit of my parenting wisdom and real life experience. But I don’t feel wise here. if anything…i feel a little lost.

It’s my job to help my son navigate through these middle school experiences. But what is the best route? This is brand new territory for me. A Daniel Tiger episode or a comforting hug aren’t going to work with addressing what we have going on here.

Let me be clear when I say that, initially, I had ZERO clue as to where I should start. But after getting over the initial shock, I started to come up with a way to approach all of these new, different, and sometimes upsetting experiences that my middle school child has been going through this year – from Furries, vaping, and beyond.

 In the next part of our Middle School series, I’ll share how I’ve handled these challenges – I’ll disclose what’s worked, and I’ll be candid about my epic parenting fails {we all have them, so we might as well be honest and learn from one another, right?!}. I’ll share some old-school advice that I was given, as well, and detail how it has translated to parenting my tween through his current life experiences.

Mid-Michigan Moms’ ongoing Middle School series offers a raw and honest account of parenting tweens and teens. We hope you’ll tune in, and join the conversation!

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