"No, the worst thing, worse even than sitting around crying about that inevitable day when my son will leave for college, worse than thinking about whether or not in the meantime to get him those hideous baby shots he probably should have but that some babies die from, worse than the fears I have when I lie awake at 3:00 in the morning (that I won't be able to make enough money and will have to live in a tenement house where the rats will bite our heads while we sleep, or that I will lose my arms in some tragic accident and will have to go to court and diaper my son using only my mouth and feet and the judge won't think I've done a good enough job and put Sam in a foster home), worse even than the fear I feel whenever a car full of teenagers drives past my house going 200 miles an hour on our sleepy little street, worse than thinking about my son being run over by one of those drunken teenagers, or his one day becoming one of those teenagers -- worse than just about anything else is the agonizing issue of how on earth anyone can bring a child into this world knowing full well that he or she is eventually going to have to go through the seventh and eighth grades." -- Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions.
Zygote has a number of years to go before we have to confront this particular horror, but this morning, the MG packed up her stuff and headed out for her first day of middle school. She's only in fifth grade, but in her district, middle school runs from grades 5-8, with the little kids getting thrown in with a bunch of large-breasted hozzles and boys who already have facial hair. The school has done everything it can to assuage parents' fears, keeping the kids apart except for when they enter and leave the building. Still, I am nervous. If I had the power to redo, or just skip, any time in my life, I would probably choose middle school. I don't think I'm unique.
The MG must sense this because she has had tons of anxiety preparing for school. She's worried about remembering her locker combination, changing classes, and getting bullied. And how have we responded to her questions and needs for reassurance? Well, basically, I've flat out lied. I tell her that it will all be okay, and that while it wasn't enjoyable ALL the time, I've always liked school.
What I didn't tell her: it was horrendous. I don't tell her that the mean girls were out of control and that some of the mean girls were supposed best friends. That the boys are still ridiculously babyish, until they're snapping your bra or whispering filthy comments to you. I don't tell her that you are never smart enough or pretty enough or funny enough or skinny enough, and that if you think these things don't matter, your friends and classmates will tell you that you're immature. You will have boobs or you won't. You will have your period or you won't. You will have a first boyfriend or you won't. Neither is preferable because with all of your raging hormones, every option will seem awful and you'll probably hate the world and everyone in it. Melodramatic much? Well, at least she doesn't have to take the bus. I would have to do some of my best PR work yet to put a good spin on that.
I read Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence about a year ago and one of the most important bits of information that I took from that book was to check your baggage at the door. I obviously have my own biases, but I'm trying not to let them influence the MG's experience of middle school. I honestly hope, for her sake and selfishly for mine (I wouldn't sic my preteen self on my worst enemies), that her experience is different from mine and that she thrives.
One day down. 1,459 to go.
And then there's high school.