Tea Love and Bacon Little have been on a new kind of adventure – the middle school years! Bacon Little is adapting quite well… well, mostly. Grades are good – check. Active in extracurriculars – check. Behavior, mood, and good choices – let’s just say that sometimes there’s room for improvement.
Something kind of miraculous happens to our not so little ones upon reaching the middle years – neuronal networks in the brain that guide our every thought, behavior, and movement stop growing as rapidly as they had been growing in the early years.
In fact, instead of growing, the networks in the brain – which are akin to communication highways for our entire existence – become weakened and pruned like the finely pruned bushes surrounding the most exquisite castle.
While Tea Love had been contemplating all this new brain science, she had stumbled upon this quote from Tim Elmore in his book Generation iY: Secrets to Connecting with Today’s Teens & Young Adults in the Digital Age, noting, “From ages 11-14, kids lose some of the connections between [brain] cells in the part of the brain that enables them to think clearly and make good decisions.”
“Maybe that’s why it’s been doubly tough and doubly exciting these middle school years,” Tea Love noted as she smiled at Bacon Little who was watching another fanciful YouTube video. As she looked out of the corner of her eye, Bacon Little had just put his phone down to robustly acknowledge himself, “I’ve got this, mom! I’m in middle school now.”
Tea Love took a big mindful breath then encouraged Bacon Little to be confident, but not too confident.
In the same week he got his backflip down he overconfidently jumped and busted his mouth, then rode his bike with friends to the nearby railroad tracks to adventure and explore and got called out by a neighborhood police officer that sternly told them they were trespassing (and oh joy, all parents were called to pick them up), and the big cherry topper was that one of his teachers required a conference about his more than chatty demeanor in class.
“I think at this point,” said Tea Love as she was laying down to rest, “a few of those ‘make good decisions’ networks in the brain have been pruned impeccably well!
Tea Love opened her book to further find out that as some of this brain pruning is going on in the brains of our sweet tweens and teens the brain is still forming into an adult brain until the early twenties.
“No wonder mood swings and irresponsible behavior is running rampant during these years!” Tea Love noted as she closed her book for the evening and turned off the lamp to another night’s sleep.
The next morning Bacon Little was making his lunch for school and Tea Love was feeling grateful for his kind heart and independent ways. As she walked into the kitchen to pour another cup of hot tea she smiled at him and said to herself, “He does make some pretty awesomesauce choices sometimes.”
I suppose life itself is an adventure. There’s an ebb and flow no matter what age we find ourselves living. Yet, there’s something pretty miraculous about the middle years. It’s the ultimate transition from child to adult. The network plucking in the brain leaves an open space for new networks to grow, but this transition takes time.
After another moody interaction, Tea Love looked straight into Bacon Little’s eyes and told him like it is, “I can’t take this anymore, I’m at my edge!” Her eyes swelled up with tears and to her surprise so did Bacon Little’s eyes.
“I didn’t look at it that way, I’m sorry,” he said with an almost broken heart at seeing Tea Love in such a vulnerable state.
They hugged and started all over. With just the right amount of confidence they stepped forward in sync and said, “We’ve got this!”
What else can you do when your brain is in renovation mode?
Om Shanti Om ~ Athea