Today is my oldest son’s first day of middle school. Like it is for most parents, today is bittersweet, but the bitter part may be a bit deeper for me than it is for other parents.
Middle school, which was called junior high when I attended in Southern California almost 30 years ago, was particularly a difficult time for me. Bullying started a bit in elementary school, especially by a girl who decided to change her name to something “cooler” but otherwise was a very unremarkable person and seemed to disappear after elementary school. But in junior high, I remember it escalated and it also continued a bit in high school. Though I made amazing friends and acquaintances (people I’ve kept in touch with over the years), in general, I feel like California public schools didn’t breed the most quality people, particularly in the areas of kindness and empathy.
The issues I had to deal with regarding bullying in school still affect me to this day.
I am very aware of people’s actions and am borderline anxious that bullying will still occur to me in adulthood, since bullying often happens to people in the workplace or even (and sadly) is done by other parents at their kids’ schools. I am also anxious that the most innocent of comments, even positive ones, could be actually sinister, as if the person making the comment is acting like Regina from Mean Girls.
As a parent, my experience being bullied as a child also affects my children.
I find myself being hyper-vigilant at any sign that anyone may be mistreating my child; the momma bear in me doesn’t hesitate to fiercely come out at even the hint of anything and it’s not pretty. I sometimes lay in bed at night becoming panicked over made-up scenarios about someone causing hurt to my precious child. My middle schooler is the sweetest child you could ever meet, but like me, he tends to be quirky and gets lost in his own thoughts. I think it’s our similarities that make me so anxious.
After I dropped off my son to his first day of middle school this morning, I sat in my church (which is part of his school) with a tightness in my chest and anxiety running through my veins, praying that he will have a blessed year, a great experience in middle school, and will make happy memories. I need to remember this is a different time and place and that he’s surrounded by different kids. I also need to remember that I have no control over others or the situation; all I can do is offer hopes and prayers for middle school.