It's Thanksgiving. Noah's mom has the table set. The kitchen's filled with his favorite foods. Every year the family gathers in their home. Even his aunt and uncle from across the country are flying in.
So Noah's taking bets on how long it will take Aunt Linda to throw her arms around him and declare, "Look at YOU! You've gotten so tall I barely recognize you!"
Winning time: 45 seconds. Aunt Linda hasn't even taken off her coat.
Flash forward to you, forty years later. You see yourself in a recent photo.
You're startled. You thought you looked so cute when that picture was taken!
Who's this schlumpy woman who doesn't stand up straight and looks pregnant in that shirt?
And what's up with that lighting, casting all those shadows on her face!
Those are shadows and not her actual skin, right?
Life hands us periods of drastic, sometimes chaotic, physical change. For no one is this more true than 8th grade boys and 50-year-old women.
Because I shepherd the entire student body, I don't always see kids on a regular basis. So the boys in particular grow before my eyes, as if a time lapse photographer is snapping pics of them as they walk to class.
The boy I call in for a conference is NOT the same one I met with 2 months ago, let alone the April before.
When Noah enters my office, I almost gasp and channel "Aunt Linda." But I don't. It's bad enough he has his morphing physical shape pointed out to him on holidays. He doesn't need that from me.
Why? Because he's already self conscious enough. Unsure, gawky.
It's like breaking in a new pair of shoes. You know they're the right size, but when will they start to feel comfortable?
And Noah's only one of, well, all of them.
Hormones are raging.
Some little faces have broken out into a map of Rhode Island.
A few girls are resembling Jennifer Lopez in all the ways that put her on the cover of Cosmo.
There's a lot of stumbling over your own feet going on.
In middle school you struggle to just keep up with yourself.
But you eventually get that figured out. And your reward? It all rolls around again. It takes 40 years, but it happens.
Hormones are raging.
Once again, your body doesn't feel like your own. Now it's not time lapse photography at work so much as CGI effects.
We set off in search of our waistlines. Or our chins.
Our skin no longer fits.
We're active, but something called "recovery time" takes on a new meaning since we actually need it to RECOVER.
We can't eat the same things, or in the same way.
We monitor our bodies for signs of unusual, even serious, change.
Who is that woman in the mirror? Why doesn't she match the image in my head?
In midlife you struggle to just catch up with yourself.
In middle school and in midlife our bodies aren't just messengers. They're more like beacons, signaling major changes we're undergoing for all the world to see.
My body threw me for a loop in my late 40's. I was told all the changes were "normal." I don't remember being consoled much by that.
My situation has improved over the years, but I don't think I learned my middle school lesson very well. The one about being kind to yourself.
So I'm working on it.
And I'm reminding students every day to do the same. Probably to make up for me not doing that for myself.
In both life stages, our bodies deserve our support, compassion, patience, KINDNESS. Throw in a little humor and a light heart, and we just might make it through the transformation in tact.
In spite of Aunt Linda and our necks.
Do you remember having to come to terms with your changing body in middle school? How are you coming to terms with it in midlife?
What lessons are you learning again (or for the first time)?