Like my friend Anjali, I’m thinking a lot about MIDDLE SCHOOL, which my girls will be entering this fall. And yes, something about it just requires all caps, as it proving to be a more terrifying transition than I had expected.
On the rational side, I’m very excited about the middle school my girls will be attending; their new school is a K-12 school, so they won’t be leaving the building they’re currently in, and will use the same dining hall and gym facilities. Since I work in the Upper School there, I know some of their teachers already, and am thrilled to think of my girls getting to work with them. Lucy will start Chinese this fall, and Sophie is already looking forward to trying for the middle school musical and joining middle school chorus. There are plenty of sports teams they can try (all with no-cuts policies, so they can really experiment), and afterschool clubs (free to join) with all kinds of different interests. There are mixers each year to meet other kids (boys) from different schools, and yearly retreats that include outdoor education and leadership training. I’m glad they will be in an advisory program, as I think those are so crucial in the 6-12 grades, and I know and trust the Middle School principal, who is just a fabulous person, as well as being a skilled administrator.
So what’s the problem, right?
In her post, Anjali wrote, there’s something about the term MIDDLE SCHOOL that feels incredibly oppressive and repressive and suppressive and claustrophobic and makes me want to have a drink. Of alcohol. Make that a double. YES. There’s a lot of talk recently about how we never truly leave high school, but middle school brings up much more depressing feelings for me than high school. It just seems like such a maelstrom of feelings and hormones and chemicals, so ripe with bad choices and careless actions, kids who aren’t old enough to drive but are old enough (physically) to make life-altering decisions, old enough to lash out at each other but too immature to see the consequences. It’s also the period of time when kids start pulling away from their families (especially parents) and towards their friends, but when they still need so much guidance and support.
Working with high school kids means I hear all the stories, the good and the bad, and sometimes I wonder if that has made me more cynical, more anxious. But I think it’s also the lingering memories and emotions from my own experiences; I escaped middle school fairly unscathed, but I knew so many girls who suffered some serious traumas, and I felt guilty for years, wondering if I could have been a better friend, if I could have alerted more adults who might had been able to help them. One of the difficult parts of parenting adolescents is keeping your own experience apart from theirs; your daughter is not yourself, and her life is not yours, just as her future will be different from yours. I learned some valuable lessons from those years, but I’d like my own kids to not have to pay such a high emotional cost while learning them.
I don’t anticipate blogging a lot about my kids’ middle school experience, since I’m blogging publicly here and want to respect their privacy as much as possible, but I know it will be a big part of the next few years of my life, so I’m hoping to be able to work out my own feelings in writing (here or privately) as I make the transition right along with them. What I’m also thinking about is when my kids start to pull away, how I will maintain connections with them, and what shared interests can I foster? When they start to pull away, what will I have space for in my own life, and what might I be able to pursue that I hadn’t before?
- The Great High/Middle School Tension (youthmin.org)
- Is middle school the most critical time for parental engagement? (schoolcues.wordpress.com)
- Middle Schools CAN Impact High School Dropout Rates! (brightfutures4me.wordpress.com)
- Middle School = Awesome (mastersinteaching.wordpress.com)
- Parent Action Plan: Middle School Students – College Planning (bigfuture.collegeboard.org)