Those of you out there with little children, I see you. I know your struggles. Worrying about if they will fall in the swimming pool. Wander out of the yard. Barrel through an intersection on their bike.
Just wait. Till middle school. Then you will really have something to worry about.
* * *
Our house is still a construction zone.
I’m behind in some work, so to flee the buzzing saws and clanging hammers, I took up a spot in our library.
It’s a wonderful new space for which I am thankful.
While I was sitting here amongst the books and crying babies, a gaggle of younger looking adults filtered in the building.
They broke off into packs of two and one of these bitty groups approached me.
“Ma’am, we are students from the University of Georgia, would you mind answering a few questions?”
I used to hate it when I was “ma’amed” but now I know that children raised in the South can’t help it. Those who were raised right anyway.
Turns out they were student teachers who were going to be interning at the middle school.
They asked me how long we had been living here. And what I liked about living in a small town. What I didn’t like so much.
Then they asked me about the middle school. What did I think about it?
It’s funny. Well, not really funny how much your children change from 5th grade in the elementary school and their 6th grade year at in middle school.
It’s like they become 12 and flip the numbers around. They think they are 21.
And most 21 year olds don’t like being told what to do all the time by their parents.
That’s what most surprised me as a parent. How that one who used to look at you with adoring eyes now thinks you are the most unhip, uncool — the mom least liked by all their friends — on the planet.
And that’s on a good day.
Talking to these future middle school educators, I realized how tough it is to be a middle school parent — and a middle school educator. We are fighting a tidal wave of data these children receive from the online adult world.
A world they are in many ways not prepared for.
Check your child’s texts. What they are doing on social media sites. I knew my daughter was on Instagram. I didn’t know she had 2,000 followers and was following over 5,000 people.
That was a fun day my friends —
The day I told her we were shutting down that account and creating a private one.
Come to think of it, I need to check how many followers she’s up to and what she’s been posting.
My daughter is a great kid. A smart kid. And that is part of the problem. We as parents get busy with obligations of our own and there is all this secret squirrel data transferring back and forth between the younger crowd.
I don’t let her Facebook. Or Tweet. Or have a blog.
I know she will have a blog one day — so remember, whatever you read about me — there are two sides to every story.
That brief conversation today crystalized my thoughts about middle school. It is the toughest water to navigate — in my non-professional opinion. I’m thankful for the school we have in Morgan County and for the teachers that come to make a difference every day.
As parents, we have to stay vigilant. Just the thought of checking all the texts and emails and social networks can be exhausting.
Come to think of it, I haven’t looked at my daughter’s phone lately.
That little ESP where she can look about a room and size up any windfalls or downfalls her child will suffer through.
My youngest and I pulled up to the start of the Real Buckhead Road Race 5K on Saturday.
It soon became evident, there were more children his age than normal running a small race like this. Which was great. Or could be not so great.
Depending what scenario played out.
Scenario one: He races his young friends full speed till his breath fails then he good-naturedly walks and runs the rest of the race.
The second and more likely scenario: He races full speed till his breath fails and he stops right there — not moving another millimeter forward.
The competitive spirit that drove him to almost puke beating a 55-year-old woman to the finish last weekend will swamp him with anger at not keeping up with friends. Why is this the more likely scenario? Because it has happened. Leaving me stranded with an angry child who will not move. One. More. Inch.
But I’m an old pro at this mother biz. Let the slight prospect of a major meltdown bobbing on the horizon stop me?
Besides. We had already picked up our numbers.
Before the race. All was posey rosey.
The gun sounded — or maybe there was a nice man who said, “Go” — and we were off.
Sure enough. Soon enough my linebacker strained to keep up with the wideouts.
And before too long . . .
But we kept moving forward.
Until his side-stitch-of-a-cramp paralyzed him like Botox in a midlife furrow.
He wasn’t moving.
This is when I called on my decades of child psychology to keep that boy stepping forward.
“Mom. Mom. I don’t want to go anymore. My side hurts.”
“Just walk it off. Keep moving. It will get better,” I said a bit too peppy for me. I’m a positive sort but not rah-rah so this came out rather like telling all my friends “so glad you made cheerleading when I didn’t because really I only tried-out to watch your triple backflips up close.”
Smile. Smile. Ugh.
We had only gone one mile of three.
Double ugh. Smile. Smile. “You can do this Joe. You got to finish the race to wear the shirt right?”
“No,” was his reply.
And then a little Christmas miracle happened at the 1.34 mile point.
A wide receiver came back to play with my linebacker who had evolved into a lineman.
Skipping and walking and trying “not to step on the road.” Then “trying not to step on the yellow,” the wideout and the lineman forged ahead.
We all skipped along for the last few miles.
Finally, we saw the finish looming up there.
Afterwards, nothing like some pancakes to really work a cramp out of your side.
Yes, my running buddy and I hit the high school cafe for pancakes and all was better.
You know, it was a great morning.
A sweet wide receiver came back and helped his lumbering lineman friend (and the lineman’s mama who was running out of tricks) finish the race.
And my son didn’t meltdown with disappointment. He rose to the challenge and played the ball where it lay that morning.
A raging cramp-in-the-side was a crummy lie.
Like I told the boys. “We might have been one of the last ones to finish, but we beat everyone who stayed in bed that morning.”
Not that staying in bed on a Saturday is such a bad thing. But you didn’t hear it from me.
Have you ever had to coach a child through disappointment?
Earlier in the week, my son asked if I could chaperon his field trip Tuesday. I couldn’t and he started trippin’ the guilt.
I quickly countered, “I’ll have lunch with you on Thursday.”
“And bring Burger King?” he quipped.
“And bring Burger King.” I agreed and hoped he would forget. Shame on me but I’m trying to get things done by the holiday and those hours they are at school count double.
He didn’t forget, so yesterday I raced up to Burger King and raced over to the school thinking I was late — only to find a parking lot overflowing with cars.
The Thanksgiving Luncheon. Good grief. I completely forgot.
Dismissing a notion to throw the car in reverse, I parked and carried the Burger King bag into the entrance of the school that was packed with parents waiting for children dressed like this.
This arrived in the mail today. From Mother.
Me at around five. Visiting my grandparents, I put on my grandmother’s apron and Grandaddy snapped this shot. I guess I thought our Puritan fore-mothers wore aprons while they were mixing up all those pumpkin pies.
Finally I saw my son and we scampered to the parents’ table to eat. Another friend was there eating with his daughter. “I had no idea this was Thanksgiving lunch,” he said. “Is this new?”
I didn’t know and still felt irrationally embarrassed about bringing BK while all the other school children were eating turkey and dressing. It wasn’t like it was some sacred meal, right?
Getting ready to go I kissed my son.
“Sorry you missed out on Thanksgiving dinner, I didn’t know.”
“Oh I knew,” he replied. “That’s why I wanted you to bring me lunch. I hated it last year.”
Have your children had their school Thanksgiving feast?