I remember being in middle school. New friends. New teachers. Popular ... unpopular. A time when all I cared about was friends, and anything my parents did was embarrassing (and of course I knew everything and they knew nothing).
Fast forward twenty-plus years, and once again middle school is the main focus. New friends. New teachers. Popular ... unpopular. Embarrassing parents. This time, however, I am that embarrassing parent, watching from the sidelines as my twelve (about to be thirteen) year-old daughter moves her way through the “mania” that is middle school.
When it began, I don’t know who was more terrified ... me or her. Will she make new friends? Will she fit in? Will she remember her locker combination? Will she make it to class in five minutes? That rush of nervousness I had all those years ago came flooding back, only this time I wasn’t in complete control of the outcome.
Sixth grade came and went in a quick blur. My daughter made new friends, had good teachers, remembered her locker combination, and switching classes in the allotted time became a breeze. She took her lunch (in a paper sack because that was “cooler”). Her parents were still embarrassing, but she was okay with being seen with us in public. She joined band and was the only girl in the percussion section. We made it through without needing a counselor or a therapist. All was relatively good.
Then came seventh grade. This year. The year she found her “style” (skater), became a better drummer, and the year I got my first grey hair. What happened to the girl trying to make her way through a sea of kids in a new, bigger school? She grew up a bit (I admit with a tear). Suddenly saying goodbye in the morning wasn’t a hug and a kiss on the cheek ... now it’s just a quick kiss or more like feeling wind as she moves her head quickly to and away from me so that nobody will see. Talking with friends is more important than anything. The bedroom door is closed, and being seen in public with parents is okay as long as the parents don’t talk.
I have formed an unofficial support group with some friends at work. Some have had children in middle school and made it to the other side. Others have children in middle school now, and one has a daughter in fifth grade and the look of fear on her face after listening to our stories is priceless. I remember having that look at one time too.
Now I don’t mean to make it sound all “doom and gloom” ... because it isn’t. Still, the carefree days of elementary school are gone, and a new era is upon us. I realize the most important thing (especially if you have a girl) is to make sure she knows you are there for her and that you love her no matter what. This has helped me keep the lines of communication open and even though I might be viewing her middle school experience from the side, looking in ... at least the window is open.