I’m not quite sure how this came to be. Yesterday, my daughter was 4. I swear. And now she’s in 6th grade. She wears a uniform to school. She has French class. She has to change into different clothes for P.E. She has a locker. Next thing you know, she’s going to ask for cigarettes and a Facebook account.
I’ve been in denial about middle school for a long, long time. Not just this summer. I’ve been dreading it for eleven years. When she was a newborn baby, I would look down at her in her crib as she gurgled and ate her toes, and I’d think You are the cutest, sweetest baby in all Creation, and we’re going to have so much fun together DO NOT GROW UP AND GO TO MIDDLE SCHOOL I AM SERIOUSLY NOT KIDDING YOUNG LADY.
But it’s here. Middle school snuck up on me when I wasn’t looking. Like a troll under a bridge, it was always there; waiting just out of sight, in the shadows, until I was all soft and unsuspecting, lulled into complacency by the garden paradise of elementary school.
I didn’t sign on for this whole middle school thing.
I didn’t sign on for Big Scary New Place with hulking 8th graders lurking everywhere (did you know they have freakin’ 8th graders there??), many whom are taller than me. Several of whom are shaving. They have no place being in the same universe as my sweet-faced, cherub of a daughter. I didn’t sign on for anything that would require her to mix it up with gangly older kids who you know are totally concealing weapons and drugs in their clothes.
Nor did I agree to relinquish my girl to bitter, beady-eyed, iron-fisted geezer/teachers who hate children, and wouldn’t know a Gifted and Talented Kid if he/she demonstrated Quantum String Theory right in front of them. Teachers who just want to stamp “Mediocre” on my brilliant’s child’s brilliant forehead, and push her into the next classroom.
I didn’t give my approval for mean P.E. coaches to yell at my daughter and make her run extra laps simply because she tends to lose focus when wandering around the outfield.
Middle School: You will never find a more wretched hive of Mean Teachers, Bullies, and Drug Dealers.
That’s where my head was at the start of the week, on the first day of my daughter’s 6th grade year. I walked up to that school with my light saber blazing, ready to slice off the head of anyone who looked like they might want to make my kid’s pre-adolescence more awful than it was already going to be.
I’m not saying mine was the best attitude ever. I’m not sure where it’s coming from. Maybe possibly I’m remembering my own junior high years. There’s a very slight chance that those memories are affecting my perspective.
Here’s the thing, though. We’re officially through the first week, and journalistic integrity requires me to report that… things might not actually be that bad.
On the first day, my daughter, her mom and I walked around the campus and located all of her classrooms. Just like several other milling families also wandering like lost cows, looking at numbers on doors. Apparently my daughter was not the only New Kid at this new middle school. The thought honestly hadn’t occurred to me.
We poked our heads into our Math and English classrooms and met those teachers. The rooms seemed colorful and well-tended, and the teachers themselves seemed… well, really nice. And friendly. And excited to meet my kid. They welcomed her and promised that it was going to be an awesome year. (Early reports also indicate that our French and P.E. teachers are “super cool” too.)
I began looking at the other kids, older ones, returning students, who were darting around, greeting friends, talking about their summers, all seemingly excited and happy and drug-free. In short, it looked like a pretty decent group of kids, despite the fact that compared to my daughter, they were all tall as redwoods.
I was not prepared for any of this. I don’t mind telling you it was very disorienting.
Middle school is supposed to be awful. Torturous, traumatic, and generally gross. It’s where many of our emotional scars are first etched into our psyches. Right? Isn’t that what happens?
That may still be the case. The tween years are rough on everyone, and we’re just starting them now. My precocious, sensitive daughter may have a tougher time of it than other kids. But currently, here at the end of the first week of Middle School, which is really the start of a pretty damn important chapter in her life… things seem close to wonderful.
We’ll see what next week brings.