i promise to stop before this becomes a nickelback song
In just a little more than three weeks, my oldest son will be a middle school student. If you ask him his opinion of starting sixth grade, you'll get a lackadaisical response about his alleged disdain for school. He doesn't really hate it, of course, but saying you hate school is somewhere in the bylaws of being a 10 year old boy. Probably in Section 8, subcategory C, right after "Laughing at farts is mandatory."
If you were to then turn to me and ask how I'm coping with this new phase in his life, be prepared for the kind of rambling discourse of someone going through the seven stages of grief who hasn't quite yet been rewarded with acceptance and hope. It's hard for me to see a sixth grader under the flop of blond hair atop my son's head (I know. I have no idea where he gets it from, either). I don't feel I've had him long enough to allow this. However, the day after he turns 11, he'll get up and pull on clothes from a pile of new shirts and shorts bought to replace all he outgrew this summer, shovel down a bowl of cereal, endure a first day of school photo shoot, then head off down the street to meet the friends he plans to walk to school with. My hope is he'll continue the tradition he's had since kindergarten of turning around every three or four steps and waving goodbye to me, but I'm already bracing myself for the possibility he won't. I believe this might be part of the denial stage.
He'll be attending the same building where I graduated high school back when the school district was significantly smaller. Just before summer break, I attended a parent's night orientation hosted by school administrators to get of glimpse of what this chapter in his academic story would be like. As I followed the other parents funneling into the gym, I was punched in the nose by the thick, sweaty smell of the room, which made me remember how much I actually hated school when I was a student in this building. Maybe there is something to those bylaws.
Also? Some farts ARE funny.
Walking into that building also made me tear up a little bit. I know. Lame. But not really. Middle school was the introduction of cliques and contests I had no idea how to maneuver, and while my friends kept walking down the path of popularity, I smacked face first into the signpost marked "oddball" because I was too busy gawking at my shoes, and I never veered off. There's nothing wrong with being the oddball, a little fact I'd happily tell the younger version of me I swear I spotted huddled on the bleachers across the room from me that evening. But because I didn't feel that way all those years ago, because I was a junior high gecko attempting to blend into her environment so as not to attract attention of predators, I'm bracing myself for my son's introduction to middle school with a sense of trepidation that is all, it seems, of my own creation.
It's hard to not to laugh smugly and tell him real life school isn't like High School Musical, where the gang all likes each other and breaks out into perfectly in sync dance moves (but how flippin' kick ass would that be, and I am not lying!), but I also don't chime in with tales of my middle school angst when the topic comes up around the house. For all I know, my son may enter middle school on August 20th, and have a completely different experience than the one I had, which, sorry Oddball Me, I kind of hope that's the case.
I've spent this summer watching my son crack open the doors leading to his freedom a little bit wider every day. It's not been easy watching him test the waters of his freedom, but each year that passes makes it more and more inevitable. I suppose this summer was designed as a prep course for me. If I asked him, he'd say, "Actually, Mom, I think it was designed for both of us. Also, I hate school. And did you know farts were funny?" He's a good kid. A smart kid. Letting a bit of him go has allowed me to I let him go, as it were.
But I'm still in the denial phase, and I'm not sure that I won't be out of it before the end of his first semester.