We are almost a month into the new school year, and I’ve got a 6th grader who just started a new school. It might as well be a new country with its regulations, requirements, language, and leadership. I am one of the weird folks out there who actually enjoys middle schoolers – I like how they still act kid-like while trying to also act grown. I’m always interested in the in-between phases, where you can literally see the evolution happen in front of your face (that might be why I love working with college students).
I have limited fears about having a middle schooler and ALL the fears about him being in middle school.
I walked into the idea of middle school with the normal trepidation of a parent who is 1) new at something and 2) quite comfortable with what is already familiar. We attended an orientation meeting before school started, and after we left, my son and I agreed that we were overwhelmed, but overwhelmed about brand new things rather than those we worried about before we walked in the building.
We made a schedule. We walked the building. We drove his route for the bus. We tested his locker combination. We bought all the things. We talked through all the scenarios. We bought other, better things. And then we went through it over and over. I still don’t know whether we did all of that for me or for him. Anyone who knows me knows that being prepared is my thing (I’m a card-carrying enneagram 6), so I asked questions by the boatload.
Do you need a note for the bus? Where do you put your trumpet when you don’t have band? Do you remember your locker combination? What day is A day and B day? Who will you sit with at lunch? Who else rides the bus with you? Do you go to your locker between each class? Have you gotten lost?
Everything was different. Everything was new. Everything was under question. Yet different isn’t always bad, new is often exciting, and questions give way to solid answers.
A funny thing happened, as it always does (I should stop being surprised by now). My firstborn figured it out and found his rhythm. He asked questions, he watched what other people did, and he made a few mistakes. I am happy to inform you that we stand on the other side of that mountain of questions with some solid footing. (I know, I know; for anyone reading this with an older middle schooler or high schooler who is rolling their eyes, I’m aware I will eat my words soon enough – I’m not confident we have this covered.)
I read once that parenting is a series of moments of letting go, and I am working hard to do just that. This time, I feel like I’m having to do it on purpose or maybe I’m just more aware of it in the moment. He’s a good kid (one of the best, in my humble opinion), and this month has been another reminder to let him go, and give him a chance to work things out. I shouldn’t be surprised — that’s what we taught him. I hope we’ve also taught him that when he needs it, there’s no softer place to land than home with us.