A few weeks before Lizzie left for summer camp, she graduated from middle school. At graduation, the kids received handshakes or hugs from a much-loved teacher as well as a personalized certificate. Hers says “Congratulations, Lizzie. You survived middle school!”
I lied. It doesn’t actually say that, although maybe it should. After all, how many adults look back to their days in junior high, sigh dreamily, and say, “Those were the best days of my life!” I suspect very few.
For me, middle school felt more like a life sentence. I was that weird kid, the one who didn’t wear the right clothes or listen to popular music. A week or so before I started seventh grade, our family moved from Jakarta, Indonesia, which I’d loved, to a small town in southern Louisiana, where I felt like a freak. I was the freak.
This was back before the homogenizing effects of television or the internet, so I went from dancing around our Jakarta living room to bootleg Disney cassettes of the Aristocats to listening to American Top 40 radio, which left our whole family slightly baffled. (I can see us in our white Dodge Aspen station wagon, my dad whispering in a slightly scandalized voice to my mom, “What are they saying?” when “Play that Funky Music” came on the the AM radio.) I still shudder when I think about outfit that I wore the first day of seventh grade — a batik wraparound skirt, a red “Property of the Macadamia Nut Factory” shirt and white patent leather sandals. All the other girls were dressed in Chic jeans, gold belts, and blue eyeshadow. The first day of middle school did not go well.
One thing I’ve found about having a child in middle school is that if you hated it, watching your child go through rough patches is a bit like having flashbacks. Seeing Lizzie on the receiving end of some mean girl stuff when she was in seventh grade transformed me into a 13-year old again, all hormones and emotion. I found it difficult to take a step back, a deep breath and remind myself that Lizzie handles things differently than I did. Even though I know I’ve got to keep my stuff far away from Lizzie’s, it’s hard.
I suspect high school will bring similar challenges. But I’m glad middle school is over. For LIzzie and, for the second time, for me.
So at Lizzie’s graduation:
“Mom, be sure to take photos of graduation,” said the daughter who can actually take phone photos that aren’t blurry to the mother who apparently cannot.