What a difference a year makes.  One year ago, Monkey entered into Junior High and thus began the hardest school year I have ever personally been involved with.

Day after day, week after week, month after month, Monkey continuously bucked all authority and insisted that she run the show.  She spent almost the entire year grounded in one form or another.

It started before school even began.  She insisted that only certain clothes were good enough and threw massive fits when she didn’t get her way.  She decided her world had already ended at 6th grade for lack of owning a single “acceptable” article of clothing.  Life was not worth living when Hun and I declared that she needed to hold off on wearing full face makeup – lip gloss just wasn’t enough in her mind.

At barely 12 years old, she decided that staying out late and hanging out with her “boyfriend” behind the school, kissing, was what “mature” kids did.  She bristled with indignation at the suggestion that she was projecting the wrong image and the other kids would label her with not-so-nice names if she continued.  She was PROUD of her accomplishments and had no problem flaunting them to whoever would listen.

She continued to push the limits – stealing, lying, and disrupting classes.  She was suspended, once, twice, and the final time – for slapping another kid – IN THE PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE – for daring to laugh at her.  The principal had our work and cell numbers on speed dial it seemed.  He’d gone through all of this before with us with Rowdy, so he knew we were doing what we could on our end and supporting his position of imposing stricter and stricter punishments.

We saw the writing on the wall pretty quickly and decided to put Monkey in counseling at mid-year.  By the end of the school year in May, Hun and I wondered if the money we were spending was worth it as the attitude from Monkey didn’t seem to change any.

And then…..

August arrived.

Back to school shopping was just beginning in our household when Monkey sat down across from me at the dining room table.  She commented, “I’m not going to worry about having ‘certain’ clothes.  I’m learning that if my friends only like me for the kind of clothes I’m wearing, then they’re really not my friends at all.”

Knock me over with a feather!  I was almost speechless, but recovered enough to say, “You’re right, those aren’t very good friends if they’re only worried about clothes.”

A few days later, we were sitting at the same table and another conversation came up between us regarding make-up.  I started out explaining that I wanted her to hold off one more year regarding full make-up because her body was still adjusting to new hormones and she was going into Athletics which was going to have her sweating even more than regular gym class.  We had a calm, civil conversation about what happens when kids pile the make-up on and how it can cause more acne and other skin issues.  Monkey was disappointed initially, but stated she understood my reasoning and said she hadn’t thought about the things I was bringing up.  She brightened up considerably when I told her that I did think she was ready to add mascara to the mix, along with the lip gloss.

In the same conversation, I pushed my luck and we talked about her Facebook page.  She set one up last year behind our backs after we expressly told her she hadn’t earned the privilege due to getting in so much trouble and then hiding and lying about it later.  I asked her if she thought she had earned the privilege to have access to her page when she turns 13, three weeks after school starts.

Again, I was shocked at her response, “No, I haven’t earned it.  I was misbehaving almost the entire school year last year, including lying about the account.”

I agreed with her assessment and offered her an opportunity.  I suggested that she show us she has changed at school and we’d reactivate her account at the first 6 week mark if she didn’t get in trouble for the entire 6 weeks.  She agreed that my suggestion was reasonable and she’d do her best not to get in trouble.

When we finally went school clothes shopping, we were able to get some really great deals at a “cool” store that hadn’t even been on Monkey’s radar last year.  When we got home from our day long shopping spree and started to spread the loot out, Monkey excitedly told me that clothes we had bought at different stores matched perfectly with other items without her knowing it.  I just nodded excitedly with her (I’m a mom after all…..I was watching what she was buying!).

And then……..and then…..something happened that has never happened before…..

Monkey offered to model her outfits for me and show me what she planned on wearing on the first day of school.  I was treated to a fashion show a la Risky Business (with cloths of course!):

Outfit after outfit, Monkey excitedly modeled her picks for the first week of school.

Tomorrow, September 20th, is Monkey’s 13th birthday.

What a difference a year makes!

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