Monday, August 8, 2011
Kid Stuff: Middle School Approacheth
The Big Kid starts middle school in two weeks, and he generally has a positive outlook about everything - the exception being lunch. Two weeks into summer break, he blurted out, "So, when you're in middle school, you don't eat with your class?"
"Um, yeah, I guess that's right."
"What if you can't find anyone to sit with?"
And so it begins. Sigh.
I leveled with him. I told him that middle school is unavoidably awkward, with occasional veers into the just plain awful. But he should take comfort in the fact that every middle schooler, at every middle school, has essentially the same experience. It's a function of your age - so just roll with it as best you can. And then I offered him some words of actual comfort:
"And remember, too, that you're in a Magnet program."
"Um, well, four things. One: you are in a small group within a larger group, and people within the small group will tend to band together. Two: because it's a Magnet program, you have people coming from everywhere - likely, only one or two from each elementary campus. So, kind of a level playing field, you know? You're a new kid, but you aren't the only new kid - there are a hundred of you. Three: everyone in the program is oriented towards arts and sciences, so there's instant common ground. And four: it's an open campus. You can take your lunch to the science or computer lab, avoid the lunchroom entirely and hopefully meeting some lunch-worthy new friends in the process."
This helped - a little. What helped a lot was the invitation in the mail to fish camp. Today and tomorrow, Big Kid is at his new campus, touring the sixth-grade building (without his dorky parents tagging along and asking tedious questions about classes offered for high school credit), participating in spirit- and team-building exercises, and getting to know the other people in his "web." Or, rather his WEB (standing for "Where Everyone Belongs") - a group of ten sixth-graders who are assigned an eighth-grade den father or mother. Said den parent escorts them to their classes the first few days, until they get the lay of the land, and the first week they eat lunch within their WEB group as well.
Love this idea - in part because it directly addresses what seems to be the root cause of most of our free-floating anxiety, and in part for sentimental reasons. Because, once upon a time, I was a Teaching Quizmaster, our law school's equivalent of a WEB leader. I taught research and writing skills to a small group of first-year law students, I coached their IM football team (yeah, that was laughable - but you have to give us props for our team name, "Felonious Monk," particularly if you know anything about jazz music - which, shockingly, a lot of my TQ students did), I baked them cakes for their birthdays, and, basically, sought to eradicate free-floating anxiety from their little 1L lives. It was a great experience, in large part because, but for the TQ program, I probably would have not met my best law school friend. Guy named McGlinchey. Who, over time, morphed from drinking buddy into "kissing buddy," then into boyfriend, fiance, husband and father of my two children. So, yeah, sentimental about the WEB thing - and also convinced that it's a really great idea. Sufficiently great that I will ignore the Spider-Man connotations and encourage the rest of my anti-Marvel/pro-DC household to do the same.
The other thing that is going on this week is we're waiting to find out whether the broken pipe under the house, and more specifically the moisture absorption into floor beams and boards relating to the broken pipe, will only require another week or so of running the dehumidifer, or whether it will require something more - like refinishing or other treatment of the hardwoods (necessitating a temporary relocation of the McGlinchey clan, including beasts) or even worse, beam replacement or the equivalent (possibly necessitating a temporary relocation of the McGlinchey clan, including beasts, PLUS APPROXIMATELY TWO THOUSAND TONS OF THE MCGLINCHEY CLAN'S STUFF - furniture and other contents, packed into a Pods pod, and then unpacked). My spouse assures me that the disruption caused by the worst-case scenario would be minimized if I would consent to simply let movers pack and unpack everything. Yeah, like that's going to happen. If I have to PRETEND to move, then I am at least going to get the BENEFIT of pretending to move and take the opportunity to edit our personal belongings. We're overdue, anyway, and if we are looking at the worst-case scenario then I am going to take it as an instruction from on high that I should gather my rosebuds while I can. But, seriously? I. DO. NOT. HAVE. TIME. RIGHT. NOW. Okay - got that out of my system. It is what it is, and I'll deal - we'll deal - and I'll try to see the humor and/or irony in things. Like, this year when the first day of school paperwork comes home, and I have to fill out the census data about the kids' living situation, I may actually be able to check the box for "transient." Don't know why this amuses me - there is rarely anything amusing about being transient - but I always see that box and then check the other box, and this year I might get to check the first box. So, there's that.
In the interim, I am fighting the urge to just start cleaning everything out. RIGHT. NOW. I indulged the urge a little bit on Saturday: first, I tackled the office supply drawer. Sorted fasteners, tested the pens, sharpened the pencils (useful before the first day of school, anyway). Then I moved on to "paper" - mail, magazines, tear-outs from magzaines, coloring books, preschool workbooks, and so on. Filled a large laundry bin with materials for recycling, and another large laundry bin with things to sell at Half-Price Books, and a good-sized trash bag with just plain trash. In the process, I sorted through a lot of school paperwork, and one of the items that I found was a small booklet that the Big Kid completed (I believe in third grade) titled "Making and Keeping Friends." One of the pages was titled:
I KNOW HOW TO HANDLE BULLIES!
And under that title was a matrix of four boxes, which boxes were completed as follows:
1. Walk away.
2. Punch them in the nose.
3. If they are too big –
4. Punch them in the throat.
#4 initially confused me, as I thought it lacked a reasoned concern for self-preservation (go on the offensive if you think you can take the person, but consider retreating if otherwise?). Then I realized that my excessively literal older child was being excessively literal: if they are too tall to afford you a good shot at their nose, then as a practical matter you're going to have to go for the throat.
God, I love him. And I hope that the WEB works its magic, and he truly feels that his school is a place where he belongs. Because, otherwise, me may be getting a call from the office requesting a meeting to discuss his conflict resolution skills.