“Is there anything good about middle school?”
Her question made me laugh. I had to think quickly.
“Of course!” I answered, “You’ll meet new friends, have more freedom, and you’re not stuck with the same teacher all day long.”
We were in the car, my youngest daughter and I, going to a meeting about the music programs available to her when she enters middle school next fall. The meeting, talk amongst her peers, knowing she’ll soon leave the only school she’s ever known, it’s all causing her to think.
Me too. Next falls brings a new season in life for my youngest daughter. And even though I have two older daughters, it will be a new season for me as well. I will watch my youngest girl grow out of childhood.
The things I’ve told her about middle school are all true. But, well, I guess there’s a lot I left out. Like that awkward feeling that prevails over every thought you have and every decision you make. Or that cloud of confusion that hangs over your head until you figure out exactly who are you, and that you’re really not so bad after all. Or maybe that was just me…
Regardless, there is so much I wish I could tell her. Things I want her to know before she goes through this transition, this time where she’ll experience changes in her body, mind and soul. Yes, if I had the chance, if I knew it would do any good, I’d tell my girl the following 10 truths about middle school:
#1-Yes, you do fit in, even though you don’t know it yet. Even though you might not know it until high school or college. You are not alone.
#2-Yes, you are smart, really smart. And don’t let the fact that you failed your history quiz or screwed up your band solo or forgot your locker combination make you think otherwise. You will make it through middle school, and (bonus!) you will make it in this world.
#3-No, I’ve never known anyone who really got a swirlee.
#4-Yes, there are mean girls. Stay away from them. They just grow up to become mean women and you don’t need them in your life no matter how popular they are.
#5-Yes, boys make me nervous. Why? Because just like girls, not all boys are nice. And a lot of those mean ones are awful cute. This makes it all the more confusing. There will be time for that later.
#6-No, your teachers don’t know everything. You’ll get some great ones, teachers who will build you up; you’ll remember them forever. But you’ll also get a couple of burned-out, grumpy teachers, and they’ll take their frustrations out on you. It’s okay; the world is full of grumpy people. This is your first lesson in dealing with them.
#7-Yes, you’re going to need to be brave. Because this is the time to discover yourself. Enjoy singing? Join the choir. Think basketball is your thing? Try out for the team, even if you’re not sure you’ll make it. Love trivia? Sing up for the Quiz Bowl. It will be scary, but you will never regret trying.
#8-Yes, there is drama, and lots of it. Middle school is filled with gossip. But people who talk about and judge others, they are just insecure. They put people down to make themselves feel better. It will be tempting to join in, but try hard not to participate. And never, ever be a bully; your words leave a permanent mark on others.
#9-No, you are not the only Christian. Hold on to your faith, tightly. It is not a thing to feel embarrassed about, or denied. It is a part of you and being Christian does not make you uncool. What’s cool is being comfortable with yourself and your choices.
#10-Yes, that feeling you have in your gut; you should listen to it. It’s your physical guide, given to you, to help you in those moments when you feel swayed to go another way. Looking back on my own life, this was the one thing that saved me from some very big mistakes.
I’d love to share these nuggets with my daughter. But guess what? She wouldn’t believe me if I told her. Because like most of us, she will gain her wisdom through experience; she will learn mostly through living, not listening. But who knows, we have lots of car rides together ahead of us. And maybe, just maybe, she and I will learn to navigate middle school together.
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