One of them, anyway.
And it was like being stabbed in the heart with the pretty blue compass I bought him for math! I staggered backwards clutching my chest to catch the pride that was leaking from the phantom wound in my heart.
“Traitor!,” I wanted to yell.
“But instead I took a deep breath and told him, “Well, that stings. Might I ask why you’d want to get up every morning at 6 am, throw your clothes on, slam a pop tart, and sit through class for 8 hours, where you have to ask to go to the bathroom and can’t go fishing between subjects, only to return around 3:30pm to begin homework, or go straight to swim practice and then come home and do homework, squeeze in dinner, hope to have time to play your guitar, shower, or poop in private, all before I make you get in the bed to prepare to do it all over again after the proper amount of sleep time?! Hmmm. Hmmm. Hmmmmm!!?” My right eyebow was splitting my hairline about now.
“Uhh,” he stammered. “Well, I don’t want to do any of that. I just wanted to see what middle school is like and meet some new friends.” His eyes were wide and he looked at me sideways like he was worried my head might spin around. And it almost did.
Then his twin emerged from his hiding spot under the couch cushions and boldly announced to his brother, “Well, I’m not going with you! Have fun.” And strolled off to immerse himself in another stop-animation movie production.
Has your child asked to go to school? It sort of hurts like being cheated on by your first love, huh? But when I really sat back and thought about it. Okay, stressed, cavorted in my closet on the phone with my mother, and stayed up a few nights wondering what I was doing wrong. How could I possibly be more fun?? I mean, seriously, I’m fun. Really fun. Aren’t I?
Then I put on my big girl panties and really thought about what he said. He wanted to know what middle school is like. And then I almost laughed hysterically, and then I fell into a cold sweat and felt the need to look down and check that my shorts were no more than an inch above my knee cap, that no salisbury steak was stuck in my braces, and that my bangs were still achieving maximum altitude.
Bless his heart. He really has no idea. We’re talking about my son who delights in getting myself or my husband (or any adult he knows) cornered, so he can talk about the injustices going on in the world, and pick our brains of every current event and psychological, political, or social enigma he gathers from the news or his
nosy people watching skills. Walking into middle school for him would be like walking into a Dr. Seuss novel and trying to classify the characters into the animal kingdom in some discernible order!
But, I also realized that he is a very social kid! We moved recently, hours away from family and old friends, and he has done an amazing job making new friends at sports and music clubs. His abilities and persistence have even forced me to become good friends with his friends’ mothers! I’m amazed at his ability to organize a group of kids into a game or a discussion. Kids that he may have just met at the park. I am sometimes too introverted for my own good. Don’t get me wrong, I love meeting new people, getting together for parties, and outings, but I also need to be alone to unwind and recharge afterwards.
Maybe he’ll be CEO of a fortune 500 company someday, Speaker of the House, Olympic head swim coach, or President of Kids Against Video Game Time Limits! I want to help foster his abilities to help him become a great leader, if that is what God has in store for him.
But we’re not going back to public school just because he wants to be around more kids. After all, that was his only reason for wanting to go. I want to get more exercise, but I’m not going to head out on a 6 month intensive mountain hiking expedition to get it. Other important responsibilities would be forgotten. He is eager, he is excited about life, and he wants to get cracking at a world of experiences awaiting him. I’m working to get him more involved outside the home. I have even started looking into university model homeschooling programs. Because while I want to accommodate his passions and abilities, at the same time, I want him to find camaraderie in the right crowd.
He’s still impressionable as a middle schooler. Perhaps even more impressionable than ever, since the awkward middle school years had most of us concerned with fitting in and looking cool. Sometimes all other worthy pursuits are swept under the rug as a price for fitting in with the crowd of pimply faced, hormonally challenged 11-13 year olds. Looking back would you have done, liked, or said the things you did had the crowd not pressured you into it? Hello, who paid all their piggy bank money to own a pair of Z-cavariccis!? Hammer pants? Did you lose your religion every time someone saw you had lost the “tight roll” in your jeans? The great wall of bangs was an art, right? Overalls: only one strap was to be fastened, the other to fly freely around to whop you in the face. Bowl cuts. Baby Got Back?! Well, she certainly does now, anyway.
Often, it is lost to a middle schooler that daring to stand out is the coolest of cool. And I can’t take that kind of a risk with one of the two coolest middle schoolers I have ever known. I’m not protecting him. I’m providing him with an alternate route with which to emerge having lost none of himself.
**Update: Since this post was written in 2016 my son, who thought he might like to see what middle school is like, has completely changed his mind. We have settled into our new area, joined way to many activities, made friends and found our groove! Now he looks forward to the days we stay home the entire 24 hours so he can work on his hobbies, interests and video games. He often says he is so glad we homeschool because well…time.