Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ready for Middle School

Ella was entering Middle School in August and quite frankly, it scared the bejeezus out of me. Mean girls, hairdos, make-up, boys… oh the thoughts were terrifying. Round about April, the Middle School sent agents out to talk about the new “Middle School” experience and answer all our questions. Mostly it just made me queasy and swirl in a vortex of new questions. Was she going to be liked by all those metropolitan girls from Richmond? Were her teachers going to recognize her brilliance (both academic and interpersonal)? What if she got a boyfriend!!

Oh dear god I was not ready for her to grow up. I know every teacher, kid and family in the elementary school (BPMS ) but none of the teachers at the new Middle School. I felt like I was throwing her to the wolves, carrying a juicy steak.

In Huntington, the youth culture is totally naive; it revolves around Littlest Pet Shoppe, never admitting to being cold, listening to the Best of Queen, playing hard and not getting tired and crazy fashions. Can you say Hawaiian shirts and plaid pants? In Richmond, after going for Step Up day, I ask Ella what the other girls are wearing and she says “A lot of pink…” with a frown thrown in for contempt.

Ella’s teacher, way back in November, began a campaign of pen pals between the 4th graders at BPMS and the Richmond 4th graders. Ella had quickly become a pen pal to two girls because there were only 18 kids graduating from BPMS. They were writing back and forth every month as an assignment. In May her pen pal writes “I was talking to Hannah J, and she said that you are the smartest girl in the school. Is that true?” Ella shows it to me and I say “wow, that’s a little unexpected, how are you going to answer that?” She blithely shrugged and headed upstairs.

The next morning I was rifling through her backpack to make sure she had all her homework done and I found her response. She wrote “You know, I probably am the smartest kid in BPMS, but I’d rather be known as the nicest”

That’s when I realized the control that I thought I had was transitory. She was ready for Middle School all by herself. Even if I wasn’t ready, I now had to admit that she was.