I Can’t Save My Son From Junior High

shutterstock_61020073In life, there are universal truths: one plus one will always equal two, Gwyneth Paltrow will always be better, and junior high will always suck.

We don’t question these truths because we’re smarter than that, dear friends. We’ve lived enough life to know better. So as my son geared up to begin junior high this year, I knew we were in for a rocky road. Like any junior high survivor, I had fears, but I hid them under an encouraging smile because Boy Wonder had fears of his own and the last thing he needed were mine.

As my son exited the car on that fateful first day of 7th grade, I said a little prayer for his comfort. I knew his day would be filled with the uncertainty and frustrations of stubborn lockers, can’t-find-in-time classrooms, and friends with alternate lunch periods. And even though I knew these inevitabilities would rattle him, I held out hope for the possibility of it all. Maybe he’d find this brave new world somehow inspiring. Maybe he’d develop new and lasting friendships. Or maybe he just wouldn’t crumble.

As he shuffled to the car at pick-up that first day, his eyes were cast ever-downward. Something in my gut sounded the mom alarm. This wouldn’t just be a bad first day; junior high would be the battle of his short lifetime. And we both knew it.

For the first time in forever, Boy Wonder didn’t have it all figured out. He couldn’t commit the lessons and teacher specifics of each class to memory. He’d have to crack a book, get himself organized, keep himself organized, plan ahead, work hard, and do about a billion other things he had little experience doing. Elementary school had been a cake walk for this kid. Pulling A’s with minimal effort, school up to this point had served as little more than an inconvenient pit stop on the way to something better. He’d never been invested in his educational experience, but maybe that’s because he never had to be.

Maybe it was my fault. Maybe I didn’t push him hard enough in elementary school. But how do you push a kid to care? And further, when the grades are outstanding, why would you? You wouldn’t, or at least I didn’t, because there were always other, more pressing fires to extinguish in motherhood. [read more…]

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