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Why 7th Grade Makes Me Cry

7th grade

Me and Jack, way, way back before 7th grade. Photo credit: Kit Gorman

I don’t know why I’m hit so hard this week. It’s not like there’s anything particularly special or milestone-ish about 7th grade. Still, my heart is in a vice.

It took hold on Wednesday afternoon when I realized that yesterday would be my boy’s first day in 7th grade. When I had him try on his uniform pants and could see I’d need to go get my 11-year-old some size sixteen slims, since his current supply is now shin-length. When I saw him putting his new binders neatly together with college-rule and graph paper and organizing his backpack.

The years are too short. They seemed long to start and then they started accelerating and now they’ve picked up too much speed and are careening down the track and I want it all to stop. Right now. I don’t want him to stop progressing or growing I just want to freeze time at this moment and spend a year where only he and I can see and move and we just talk to each other. We lay next to each other in my king-sized bed while he still thinks it’s okay to lay in bed with his mom and we chat about what he thinks is fun and what he loves and why life is cool and why it sometimes isn’t and what I want him to know before he ventures out.

The fact that he’s leaving this nest, my nest, in just a few more years feels like an emergency. Every year that passes I think, “Oh no, I’ve blown it. I haven’t gotten him ready! I haven’t shared all the things that need to be said and all the lessons that need to be taught. It’s too late!” How can you possibly make sure they have all the tools? The best foundation?

This is what I do to myself and why I’m gripped with joy seeing him grow and become a lovely young man in addition to sadness mixed with fear that I haven’t done enough. That word — enough — haunts my life in so many ways, always hovering nearby, and yet it creates no greater sense of panic than when it comes to my children.

I see him struggle sometimes and I know struggle is good. I’m not interested in preventing it but in teaching resilience against it. Resilience is the key. Sometimes I can’t tell how much of it he has. Does he believe that the cup is half full? That life is primarily good but sometimes sucks but you can get through it? That he is enough? That he can get out there and do whatever he wants to do and he won’t need me or his dad by his side even though of course we will always be there for him? I mean truly believe that and accept it and live it?

We’re now at 7th grade, and this is what I care about the most. I’ve already taught him about responsibility, leadership, working hard in school, being a gentleman and being kind but what I want the most is for him to be comfortable in his own skin, accept and love himself and know that he can do anything and get through anything.

I want him to believe in himself and know with every fiber of his being that life is good.

Dear Jack,

I love you so my monkey boy. You are a gift. You can do this.




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