Fucking Middle School

Yesterday morning, right before Jackson walked out the door for school, he looked back at me and asked, “Will you take me for a haircut after school?” I was a little surprised because I’m usually forcing him into a haircut, even so far as pulling a “surprise haircut” on him, by rolling up to Great Clips when he least expects it. He loathes haircuts. I don’t know why, but he does. So I dumbly shook my head yes, then sat silent over my morning tea and wondered what was up. Then I remembered: Today he is going on a field trip to the middle school. Today he, along with all the 70 or so fifth graders at his school, will be marched around a much larger, much nicer, much more complicated building in front of “really big kids” and well, I think he’s a little nervous. And he should be.

I immediately thought back to my middle school tour. I was terrified. And I remember very specific portions of it. Like how we were all ushered into a room when a fifth grade class from another school, there the same day as us, was ushered down the hall. I remember looking out at the faces of the “other” school, knowing that in a few short months we’d all be classmates. Some of those kids would come to be some of my best friends in middle school, but I didn’t know that on that day. I only knew they were unfamiliar, and scary, and I didn’t like them. Why would I? Why should I? They weren’t from Anthony Elementary School.

My middle school was old. It was old and it was crowded and it lacked the sort of funding that Jackson’s cool, techy middle school will have. But like my middle school, many elementary schools are funneled into one middle school. There will be opportunity for more than new classes, or new clubs, but opportunity to meet new friends, develop new crushes, and start the journey to really figuring out where he belongs in the hierarchy. There will be some bumps. Some bruises. Some stuff that never leaves him, both good and bad. But in the end the stuff that doesn’t really matter, won’t, and the stuff that does, will. I know that. That I learned in middle school, and high school, and in my 38 rotations, but he doesn’t know that yet.

I asked him while we were waiting for his haircut if he was nervous about today. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Nah. I’m excited to see the STEM classrooms!” He’s only concerned with how many 3D printers they have. He’s a different breed, my kid. Then his name was called and he walked over alone, asked the woman to do a “Two on the sides, and scissor the top” and I sat and listened to him talk.

When she brought him back to me she told me what a lot of people tell me about my son. She said he was kind, and smart, and that he was very well spoken for his age. She said she hoped her three-year-old would be like my kid, because as it sits she was nervous. I shook my head and thanked her. Assured her that her toddler would be alight, told her that the “threenager” stage doesn’t last much longer, and smiled. I looked at my son, who was running his fingers through his hair, and suddenly he nudged me and said, “There’s this, uhh, hair stuff she used…” She told me it she’d put some in his hair and he liked it. “I think I want some,” he said, shyly. “For you know, style.” I told him sure, to go grab some because yes, he’s gonna need it for style.

M.

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