A Tale of Two Schools

Middle school is an exhausting, uber-dramatic, soul-sucking affair—or at least that’s the impression my sixth-grade daughters would have the world at large believe. I could be wrong. Maybe it’s just me they’ve tried so desperately to convince—that life as an 11-year-old is hard, especially during said epic transition to the Land of Angsty Tweens. But I’m a tough sell. What’s more, I find their collective woe-is-me sort of grousing fairly amusing, which, I assume, will ensure me a cozy spot in hell. Possibly a corner office, with a window overlooking a bumper crop of my shortcomings.

At any rate, between the histrionics involved with not having the right notebooks, Sharpie markers and/or molecularly superior two-pocket folders, animated accounts of kids almost getting stuffed inside lockers and my so-called insensitivity regarding polka-dotted underwear on gym days, I can’t keep up. Indeed, during these first few weeks of school I’ve failed in a fashion that is nothing short of spectacular. That said, I’ve been less than attentive to the delicate nuance of fashion trends germane to Hollister, Hello Kitty and the hideous nature of skinny jeans. I’ve expressed outrage and, occasionally, an air of indifference toward their ever-changing moods, the irony of which is not lost on me. But perhaps most disturbingly, I’ve neglected to commiserate with those who deem their plight wholly intolerable.

Shame on me.

Hence, the commentary I’ve grown far too accustomed to hearing: “Mom, for your information, we’re going to die. Unless, of course, you go back to Staples and buy the stuff I told you we needed for science. Otherwise, we’re going to die. Also, would you puleeeeease refrain from visiting our school and putting cutesy notes inside our lockers? It’s entirely possible WE WILL DIE OF EMBARRASSMENT if you keep doing that. Either way, we’re dead.”

Point taken.

As one might expect, however, the discussion doesn’t end there. “Yeah, Mom, it’s not enough that we have to lug our backpacks and instruments ALL THE WAY to our lockers, remember the stupid combination, dump 17 million things in there and try to make it to the right class with the right stuff at the right time. We also have to deal with the possibility that someone might see your note reminding us to bring our instruments home or telling us to have a terrific day. How can we have a terrific day if you treat us like babies?!” said the soul-crushing, self-absorbed demon seed who probably doubts I ever attended junior high or wore a training bra.

Ouch. Naturally, I feel compelled to defend, and enlighten, and perhaps embellish—all in the name of making an impression upon the difficult-to-impress crowd.

“It’s not as if I haven’t navigated the thorny path of adolescence myself,” I shriek inside my head, delivering a soliloquy to end all soliloquies, “anxiously wending my way through hallways crawling with upperclassmen eager to feast upon my naïveté and/or steal my milk money. Needless to say, I’ve been stuffed inside plenty of smelly lockers. Probably. Possibly. Well, almost. I lived in CONSTANT FEAR of such an occurrence anyway, scarring me for life. And believe it or not, I, too, was burdened with the insurmountable task of (gasp!) memorizing locker combinations. Furthermore, there were no backpacks to speak of, let alone ones with a profusion of padding and ergonomic designs for the namby-pamby among us. We actually carried our books and pencils and massive quantities of notes to and from school. Through the blinding snow. Uphill. Both ways. Don’t even get me started on the banal quality of cafeteria offerings back then. Suffice it to say, you will never grow to know and loathe the essence of ‘mystery meat,’ nor will you develop a crippling aversion to sloppy joes, destined to last a lifetime.”

“Need I even mention the communal showers…or the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad gym suits we were required to wear, grades seven through twelve—the ones that were obscenely restrictive and stylistically heinous?! Of course, I must, lest you fail to appreciate the good fortune you now enjoy, to include deodorant. Lots of deodorant, for one and all. Never mind that insufferable wedge of the calendar designated for obligatory boy/girl square dancing during the 70s era—an event that could only be classified as sheer misery, especially in the eyes of teens and tweens whose lives were devoted to building a society of budding wallflowers,” said the veteran wallflower, as she recounted that which, ostensibly, was a soul-sucking affair.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (reminiscing, sort of). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2012 Melinda L. Wentzel

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