Here are the words I think of when you say Middle School.
Awkward. Weird. Lost. Pimples. Awkward. Lonely. Confused. Overwhelmed. Awkward.
Did I mention it was awkward?
For me, middle school was “junior high school” and I didn’t actually go until I was in seventh grade. But my older daughter started this fall and it’s been an adjustment.
It’s all the stereotypes you can think of, but honestly, why did they all have to hit her at the same time?
My fashion queen feels out of place because the girls in our town seldom wear dresses or anything fancy. And by seldom, I mean NEVER. Picture day, she told me, was just a cacophony of loud complaints from the girls about the horrific outfits their parents insisted they wear. Ironically, she told me the boys are more fancy than the girls. No idea what that means.
Lunch has also been a bit of a nightmare. After finding a table with a few casual friends that she was making an effort to get to know better, a group of “popular” girls sat at the chairs at the opposite end.
You already know what they look like and sound like, don’t you?
They put their stake in the ground and loudly exclaimed that this was their table and my girl and her friends would have to find someplace else to sit. Now I’m not saying this happened to me when I was in junior high, but my reaction was visceral. When I asked her for names and descriptions of who these mean girls were, she just rolled her eyes and loudly sighed, “MOM…”
She and her friends stayed at the table and endured snickers and the side eye from these little bitches girls but the next day they approached lunch with a bit more caution. Which, of course, broke my heart because BULLYING.
Girls can be cruel.
Then there was a sixth grade school dance. No dates, just a chance to socialize and have fun. My girl came down the stairs dressed in a nice short sleeve dress. No make up. Flat shoes. Pretty hair. She rolled her eyes – but smiled – when I told her she looked adorbs. A hip mother, I am not.
I had a sneaking feeling no one else was going to be dressed up for this event. Unfortunately, I was right. She seemed to have fun, but she told me later that she felt out of place. As the caravan of cars inched my car closer to the pick up area, I could see her standing there. Alone. She called out to a girl she was trying to get to know better and waved to her. The girl half-heartedly waved her hand back.
Riding the bus is no picnic either. There is a girl down the street from us who is also new in town. She’s an eighth grader and the two of them seemed to hit it off, but the bus is separated by grades so the girls can’t sit together. Buses are stupid.
And the curse words she hears on the bus? She says they’re worse than what she hears me say. Which, when I stop to think about it, must be pretty bad. I’m trying to curb my language, but it’s hard man.
The two girls a few doors down from us are moving. These are the girls she befriended when we first moved in. They didn’t immediately click but they hung out a bit over the summer. They have very few things in common so I don’t think there will be any love lost there, but still. They move in two weeks.
She and I have had lots of talks lately and what I’ve realized is that she and I are very alike. She clicks better with adults than she does with kids her age. I always did too. She came with me to the eleventy billion birthday parties my four year old was invited to this summer (no exaggeration). All of the moms just raved about how grown-up / well-behaved / mature / smart / well-spoken she is. And that makes me proud. But she wants more.
I know that our job is to raise her to make good choices and be a good adult. And we make tons of mistakes, but overall I think we’re doing the right things. This move was hard on her, but she is a good kid and she’s trying to find her way. I just wish it wasn’t so difficult and muddy sometimes.
And then I got an email from her social studies teacher just this morning. It was a generic update to all parents, but I responded with a specific question about a project and she wrote back. She answered my question and then said, “You know, it’s a pleasure having your daughter in my class. She’s a lovely breath of fresh air.”