Middle School

Nothing makes people turn their nose up like saying "Remember junior high?"  Most people recall those years as an awkward stage.  Hormones beginning, more homework, new expectations about responsibility, and the sometimes desperate need to fit in or, stand out.

Life was simple in elementary school.  You knew all the kids in your grade, and the teachers gave you that touchy feely kind of attention.  The leap to middle school brings new kids into the mix, more than one teacher, and higher expectations.

It's bad enough you have to do it once, but then you get to re-live those years through the eyes of your children.

My parenting of middle schoolers comes to an end today.  We've made it, encountering bumps and valleys and life changing events that taught us so much about ourselves - and about others.

Shannon loved middle school.  She was so eager to be a good kid and a good student and her teachers loved her.  We were skating through middle school until she was diagnosed in the spring of her 7th grade year.

But, Shannon managed to continue enjoying middle school even after her diagnosis.  She was still eager.  It's one of the things she wanted to do with the time she had left - go to school.  She wanted a normal experience, and her classmates and teachers did their best to give her that right until the end.  Kids that age can be so cruel to each other.  We were lucky to have the opposite experience.  The kindness of Shannon's middle school friends and classmates is something I will never forget.

Erin hasn't loved middle school.  Sure, she's made wonderful friends and had some wonderful teachers.  She avoided any real girl drama, but middle school has provided her some challenges that you wouldn't wish on anyone.  A lot of things - even some of the schoolwork - just seems less important after what she's been through.

Erin's 6th grade year started with the whole school knowing that her older sister, an 8th grader, was sick.  Erin missed an entire month of school when we went to Memphis.  She fell behind in math and frankly, I didn't have the capacity after Shannon passed to be as diligent as I always had been.  We were living day to day and if Erin was struggling with factorization or variables, well, it didn't seem that important.

I haven't been as diligent ever since.  Erin would admit that.  She's been given leeway and freedoms that I never would have allowed Shannon to have.  Has Erin taken advantage of that?  Yes, but in the best possible way.

Erin has learned how to get the work done, but not let it consume her or stress her out.  She has learned how to cope and persevere under the worst possible circumstances.  She made good friends and was liked by her teachers.

Thank goodness Erin is a smart kid.  She got through.  No, she more than got through.  She learned those math skills along with coping skills and life skills and became her own person.  It's going to be hard to throw Erin a curveball that she can't handle.

So, it all began with a helicopter mom and an innocent, wide eyed, first-born who was eager to please.  Today it ends for my pragmatic only child with an old soul, and her hopefully, wiser and gentler mom.

We both made it.  I think we're ready for high school...