Oh, the joys of Middle School.
Now mind you, I have been out of middle school for years. And I mean YEARS! Since that time, I’ve been a high school graduate, a fast food cashier, a clerk, a college student, a wife, a mother, a high school teacher, a secretary, a personal assistant to a district judge, and most recently, an author. I’ve had my share of joys and disappointments along the way, and I’ve had to endure problems far worse than anything I encountered in junior high. But recently, I’ve had the opportunity to relive some of those glorious middle school moments through my own 13 year-old daughter. And what fun it has been!
So I thought up this brilliant idea! Why not give you the privilege of reliving those memories with me? Lucky you!
Remember when your worst nightmare was waking up with a zit the size of Egypt right on the tip of your nose? Well, actually, that just happened to me yesterday–so bad example. But you see my point. Things that bothered us as pre-teens are miniscule compared to what lies before us now: economic crisis, debt, an impending ebola epidemic, ISIS, retirement pensions going belly up. Not to mention car and house payments, keeping food on the table, and maintaining the mountains of laundry that seem to appear every single weekend. I mean, seriously . . . how many pairs of underwear do you need, son? Can’t you turn them inside out and wear them twice…haha! Yuck! Just kidding…
Anyway, what I’m getting at is that our beautiful, young, pre-pubescent, unsure, lacking-in-wisdom-and-judgment babies only have to worry about whether or not Coach is going to play them in this week’s game. See the difference? And yet, for my daughter, this is HUGE!
I remember pretty much feeling my way through every day of middle school one slow inch at a time with these thoughts running through my brain: “I wonder who will let me eat lunch with them today? Why is my hair doing that weird thing? Oh my gosh, he looked at me again! Does he like me? I should ask Jenny to ask him if he likes me. I forgot to do my homework! Mom is going to kill me! Oh my gosh, he looked at me again…”
Seems trivial, but my daughter’s experiences of late have reminded me of how critical it is to be aware of the grand-scale importance of these issues to a young, pre-pubescent, unsure, lacking-in-wisdom-and-judgment little girl who is rapidly blooming into a woman. There are times when my daughter cries without warning, and without even knowing why she’s crying. There are times when she reverts to her little seven year-old mentality and watches her same favorite childhood movie over and over and over on a never ending reel. There are times when she’s crazy about this boy or that boy, then thinks he stinks, then doesn’t think of him at all. Times when she is devastated that someone said something mean about her behind her back, and I have to remind her that she’s said things behind backs, too. And I must confess, in general, middle school girls are probably the meanest breed around. And why? Because middle school is the time when reputations are established, when labels are plastered onto your life for the rest of your high school career, when it is decided whether you will be popular, nerdy, pretty, smart, or a juvenile delinquent. And sometimes, you don’t even have a choice in the matter. But, none the less, everyone strives to get the right label. That, my friends, is the ugly nature of the middle school beast.
Give me an economic crisis any day, right? Maybe . . .
I’m not always the best at handling my daughter’s “issues.” Sometimes–and this is so totally stupid, and I know it–but I expect her to act like an “adult” in a situation, to react with maturity, to take a different approach. I have to flick myself on the side of the head during those times and remember that she’s not an adult. She shouldn’t react like an adult. And the hardest thing? To remember that this is her life, her experience. As much as I may want things to be different for her than they were for me, as much as I want to shape her venture into my idea of the best outcome, I simply can’t. I can’t make her experience happen the way I want it to happen. I have to just let loose and let it roll out the way it’s meant to. (*whispers* I secretly hate that part . . . )
So… would you go back? Would you restep into the world of cafeteria lunch lines and mucky gym clothes? Would you revisit the time the boy with the big, blue eyes and the team jersey asked you to be his date for Homecoming . . .which in middle school consists solely of trading mums and watching him play in the football game. No romantic candlelight dinners and late night kisses for the 8th graders. At least, there better not be! And yet, perhaps this is the reason we would risk the pain of middle school angst once again. For the sweet, little moments that happen along the way. For the teacher who thinks you are the most brilliant thing she’s ever met, and if she only had a classroom full of you, she could die a happy woman. For the girl who invited you to sit with her when she saw you eating lunch alone, and to this day, you are inseparable. For the cute boy you’ve known since kindergarten who surprises you every once in a while by popping up at your locker to rearrange all your pictures of Theo James that are plastered inside. The little moments . . . these are the ones that make us all want to go back to simpler times.
Now that I think about it, middle school wasn’t so bad.
Yeah . . . right!