Middle school is rough.
Five for five, all my middle school children have experienced friend issues and spent much time painfully alone as they and their prepubescent peers try to sort through vast media messages of who they are and how they should dress/speak/act/look/treat people.
My current sixth grader is also one to call a spade a spade and doesn’t quietly stand by when classmates are openly breaking rules or treating people poorly. She’s much more brave than her mother! However, this characteristic has added to her shun time and has made school all but unbearable.
The other night at the dinner table, we were taking turns sharing “one happy and one hard” part of our day. When it was our sixth grader’s turn, she sat and sat and sat. Without looking up from her plate, finally she stated, “I can’t think of one happy part of today. The whole thing was hard.”
If you ever wonder what mothers pray about, wonder no more.
After days of pondering on the topic, only one suggestion came to mind.
Feeling a little forlorn at the simpleness of the suggestion, one afternoon I pulled my struggling daughter aside as she walked by and said, “I can see school is really hard for you right now. You know, these kinds of situations are when I really dig into my scriptures and put a lot of time into my prayers. Heavenly Father knows what you’re going through. That’s why He sent His Son to help us. You don’t have to do this on your own. They can fill you with the Holy Ghost so you never have to feel alone. Most often that happens when I am prayerfully reading my scriptures.”
She looked at me quietly, glanced down at the floor, nodded her head a bit as she digested the thought, and walked away.
That was it.
Days later, an inspired and prepared Sunday School Teacher left a midweek message asking if this same daughter would come prepared to answer a question in class on Sunday.
Calling across the room to where Sixth Grade Daughter was working on the computer, I said, “Hey, will you be prepared to tell your Sunday School Class what the Holy Ghost taught you as you read the scriptures this week?”
Head snapping up from the keyboard, she beamed back at me and immediately answered, “Sure! The Holy Ghost taught me that God really does know me, that I really am His daughter and He cares about me, and that this hard thing that I’m going through really will eventually end.”
My eyes bulged out of my face. “What?!? The Holy Ghost taught you all of THAT?”
Laughing, she walked over to where I was washing dishes and explained herself.
“Well, after you suggested that I spend more time reading the scriptures, I took my Book of Mormon to school. You know, the one my Young Women Leaders gave me for my birthday that has scriptures marked for “When you think the hard thing won’t end” and “When you feel alone.” I was reading those verses, and I just really felt good. I know Heavenly Father knows me, and I know sixth grade will end, and I will be okay.”
Then she left to finish her homework, and, feeling a little rocked, I clumsily turned back to the task of trying not to break any of the glass jars I was washing by hand. Eyes full of tears of gratitude, how I thanked our Father in Heaven and continue to thank Him for inspired youth leaders and teachers who care about our children, for an organized church that provides opportunities to support each other through life!
I also quietly thanked our Heavenly Father for “opposition in all things”¹ that brings us to our knees and connects us to our Divine Lifeline, even at twelve-years-old. It feels a little counterintuitive to be grateful for difficulties, but “what will it matter…what we suffered here if, in the end, those trials are the very things which qualify us for eternal life and exaltation in the kingdom of God with our Father and Savior?”²
Like Paul, I feel to say, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my [and my child’s] infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon [us]….for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9–10)