Middle School – Ignatian Spirituality

I have two middle school-aged sons and the word of the hour is embarrassing! They are tired of their ever-changing bodies all the time. They fall asleep at unusual times and in unusual places: on a friend’s couch, in the middle of the five-minute drive to the store, while putting on their pajamas. Without having the impulse control under control, they sometimes say the loud part softly and the quiet part loudly. And although they want to see their friends after a year of only seeing them on Zoom school screens, they don’t seem to connect. It’s not just my sons. They are all children.

After a year of fear of each other, of the germs that they were told could kill each other and that could lurk in their bodies, their bodies have changed. They have been locked in their homes for a year. Many spent senseless hours on the Internet, where information that was too adult for them confused their hearts and souls. And now these children don’t know how to deal with each other.

Middle school is an awkward time anyway, and now these young people have to deal with it while separated from a global pandemic and wearing masks that hide our subtle expressions and stifle our muttered words. My heart goes up, not only with my own boys, but also with their classmates, whom I already knew in preschool.

What do I offer these cute kids who are on the verge of teenage years? What comfort do I give them when they look for connection in so much more difficult ways than just getting new braces or a pimple on the end of their nose?

I think of Jesus at her age. When his family returned home from Jerusalem after the Passover, he separated from them and stayed in the city. Mary and Joseph had already started their journey home when they noticed that he was not with the caravan. It was several days before they found him in the temple where he was surrounding his father.

I would have been mad if I had been his mother. But Mary is more confused. She didn’t know what to do. They packed their things and went back to Nazareth, and there Jesus was obedient to his parents, and Mary wondered what all these things meant. She “kept all these things in her heart”. (Luke 2:51)

I would have been angry. I would have had an anxiety attack looking for my son. But today, this year, I wish my sons the freedom to try new things, build confidence, and discover who they really are, away from me.

When my sons were born, I prayed Luke 2:52 for them. I pray for every child at birth, nephews and nieces, children of friends and colleagues, and I do it now for my sons and their friends – that their identities be firmly rooted in their relationship with their Heavenly Father. And I pray that, like Jesus, they will know who they are.

Photo by Artem Podrez from Pexels.

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