The car door slammed and my son headed to the middle school Monday, never looking back.
“It’s weird going to Young without him,” my daughter said wistfully.
We slowly pulled away from McCarroll’s sixth-grade campus and headed to her elementary school, but her unexpected comment riled the butterflies in my stomach.
I didn’t realize she was feeling anxious about the transition. Although it likely stemmed from jitters in general, it was obvious she was a bit nervous not only about fourth grade, but also about being without her brother.
I, on the other hand, had been nervous for months.
For some reason, my son starting middle school brought my junior high insecurities bubbling to the surface. The thought of walking those halls, navigating the cafeteria and building a budding social life makes me break into a sweat.
I realize this is ridiculous. I’m pushing 40. But I think, for better or worse, you always carry around a little piece of your 13-year-old self.
Although I didn’t have a bad junior high experience, I’m not sure anyone can classify those years as “good.”
I had a mouthful of braces and huge glasses, topped off with an intense unibrow. For the most part, I had a happy existence. I had a good group of friends and did well in school.
Any “suffering” was self-induced by my own insecurities or doubts, and I don’t think I was embarrassed or humiliated more than anyone else at that age.
But for some reason, I dread the thought of my son going through those same things. I know it’s just part of growing up, and he’ll be better for it on the other side. The logical side of my brain knows this.
But it’s hard on the heart.
I actually felt a little better after going to Meet the Teacher last week because I could see those same fears in the eyes of other parents. We weren’t the only ones intensely coaching our kid on how to unlock his locker or wandering aimlessly, looking for that hidden social studies room.
I quickly realized, just as I had assured my son, that even the moms and dads are “all in the same boat.” I settled in at the office Monday with one thought: “It may not always be easy, but it’ll be OK.” My son’s a sharp kid, and I’m confident he can navigate rough waters.
By afternoon pickup, my daughter showed no signs of having missed her brother, declaring the reward box in her classroom “the best she’s ever seen.” My son, whose middle school adventure is just beginning, was able to open his locker “at least 11 times.”
My 13-year-old self is at ease, and I’m chalking that up as a first-day victory.
Kristen Tribe is editor of the Messenger.