WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE

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Recently, I did something so brave that I have to tell someone! It’s something I’ve been working toward, but dreading at the same time and I’m so proud of myself for pulling it off. I can hardly believe that I succeeded!

I- scared little ol’ me- attended my son’s middle school orientation! Can you believe it?? And, I didn’t even cry!

I know what you must be thinking: how did she manage to get through such a trial? Well, first let me tell you that the element of surprise helped immensely. Because my son often keeps things close to the vest these days, I didn’t even know the orientation was happening until the day of. This turned out to be helpful as I didn’t have much time to fret over things like: what to wear, what middle school horror stories to Google to better help me formulate my questions, etc. Ultimately, I had just enough notice to show up.

The other thing that really helped me get through the evening was the deer-in-the-headlights look I saw on several of my friends and fellow parents’ faces. I believe that “I’m not alone!” is one of the single most reassuring feelings we humans experience and that was certainly true for me as I entered the venerable halls of John Adams Middle School. (Go Falcons!)

My son didn’t share my trepidation; at least outward appearances would suggest that he didn’t. He and some of his friends bounded ahead of me, ready to meet his impending adulthood head on. (Doesn’t he know about income taxes and health insurance premiums?) I was left alone in the sea of zombie-fied parents searching for direction. Where do we go from here?

The cafeteria, it turns out. We were herded into the cafeteria while our precious babies- I mean, um, young men and women- were told to head to the gym. Once corralled in the very same lunch room that several of my friends and relatives had passed notes and shot spitballs in years earlier, members of the JAMS administration set about giving us parents “the talk”.

No, not that talk. I mean, the same-sex lunch and intramural period should be enough to keep that talk at bay until high school, right? Ha, ha! JK!

But, seriously, the staff just wanted to let us know a little bit about what to expect from our kids’ first year as middle-schoolers. Thankfully, they spent a good half hour reassuring us that sending children off to sixth grade is not the same as sending them off to Vietnam. (Thanks Mrs. Greene for so eloquently expressing what I’d been feeling!) I tried to focus on their reassurances when the topic inevitably turned to what is, I’m sure, a parent’s biggest fear about middle school: bullying.

Yes, there is bullying. Yes, there is drama. But, they have zero tolerance! But, the teachers are in the halls! But, there is a new surveillance system! But, there are counselors available!

Ugh. I want to believe that all of that is enough to keep these kids on the straight and narrow. I think I’ll keep worrying about it, though, because worry is very useful, amirite? Still, I was thankful for the staff’s earnestness and their kind efforts to quell our deepest apprehensions. These educators… ya gotta give it up for them, no?

Anyway, when it was all over and it was time to reconnect with our kids in the lobby, I chatted with some other parents and offered to buy my son a t-shirt. Then I absently did what I’ve done hundreds of times over the course of the past eleven years: pulled my little boy close to me and kissed him on top of his head.

Oh.
Em.
Gee.

Judging by the redness of his cheeks, you’d have thought I smacked his adorable little face. He was mortified. It was definitely a rookie mistake on my part. (Although, if I’m honest with mysef, there’s part of me that wanted to do it again. I mean, there’s sort of a perverse pleasure in embarrassing your kids, isn’t there? After all, he DID throw that fit in the middle of Macy’s/church/the Kroger parking lot.)

(Sigh.) I think it’s gonna be a long three years.

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