Monday, June 11, 2012

Ninety-One Percent Is Still an A

I was nervous tonight when I walked into the middle school Nick is going to attend in September.  Many of my friends are planning that drive to take their kids to college in the fall.  That's what happens when you're an old mom like I am.  I'm still getting my son on the bus in the morning.  My nervousness was made much worse when I realized that, though I was only four minutes late, the principal had already introduced himself and had begun his presentation. 

-3 points for tardiness

I found my friend Rachel, but someone else was already on one side of her and she was at the end of the row.  I dragged a chair from another row and sat down next to her.  I was thankful that it didn't scrape loudly, but people looked up anyway.

-2 points for disturbing others

The principal told us about the school's awards, about the general schedule, about the different tracks for the different levels of kids, and about extra-curricular activities.   I wrote my notes in between the sentences of the sheet he gave us instead of writing in my notebook, which would have been awkward since I couldn't hold it open comfortably in my lap.  The page was a mess.  I'm not sure I'll be able to decipher it later.

-2 points for disorganization

I got distracted and missed a couple of key items the principal was discussing.  My mind had just drifted off for a minute, about how bleak I felt during my own middle school years.  I had leaned my head back to stare at the disco ball hanging from the ceiling between the stage lights.  Suddenly, it was the seventies and disco was king.  I was twelve.  Oh man, there had been that deep crush on Jimmy Black, who was the cutest boy in the play the school put on the year I was in seventh grade, Tom Sawyer.  Of course, Jimmy was cast as Tom.  Then there was my soon-to-be-ex best friend, Tina, who  flirted with Jimmy even though I had told her that I liked him that way.  Then I found them kissing during the cast party, even though Tina only had a bit part in the play.  The problem was that I'd been cast as Old Widow Douglas and no boy in his right mind would want to kiss me after my wrinkles and gray hair had been painted on.  How I stayed friends with Tina until the end of that year, I'll never know because I can remember the sour taste in my mouth as I watched them kissing at the back of the room, two people who had said that my feelings mattered to them.  It didn't help that I lost my father that year.  Yes, middle school had been a horrible time for me, truly a time of simple social angst aligned with deep and despairing grief.  Yes,middle school was awful for me, but did it have to be that way for Nick as well?  Would he have to follow the legacy set out for him?  Would he have to endure a broken heart?  Yes, he probably would.  But will he have to suffer grief during those years as well?  Probably not, but I do have that fear.  I was also a mess the year I turned 37, the age my dad was when he died.  It was a truly strange moment when I realized that I'm older than my dad ever was.  And then I leaned forward, my eyes pulling away from that infernal disco ball.  And then I missed getting the number of the transportation director, whom I knew I'd need to call to do my check to make sure Nick's new driver was trained in the use of his EpiPen.  Oh man.

-4 points for not paying attention

After the principal was finished, he said he was available for questions and that we could tour the school.  I was glad because I'd only ever seen the lunch room and the gym.  The classrooms were a mystery to me.  Really?  I've been in so many classrooms and these were no different.  They were a bit more mature than the elementary classrooms, but still not as serious as high school and college.  It actually looked like a pretty nice school.  I chatted with some of the parents I knew as we walked around.  Then I grabbed the mom of the other boy who also has serious allergies in Nick's class.  I asked her if she wanted to provide a united front and ask the principal about accommodations for those special boys.  I had heard that he managed another child's allergies carefully, so when I introduced the two of us, I began by telling him that I had heard good things.  He beamed at us and seemed happy to answer our questions.

+2 points for teamwork

When it came to the school tour, I was seated and listening to a presentation by the PTSA before I realized that I hadn't gone to all the places I'd needed to see because I'd been chatting with the other parents.  By then, it would have been rude to get up and wander over to the tech room and the gym.  I really wanted to see the tech room.  To me, a tech room could either be full of computers, or it could be a clean room laying down narrow strips of silicon.  Oh, I knew what the tech room would look like, lined with computers, but I still wanted that concrete visualization of the space.  I don't want to be that mom who is hanging around in middle school watching her child, but it helps me to be able to imagine the places where Nick will be when he's at his new school. 

-2 points for not completing my work

Then, I really started to listen to the PTSA presentation.  It was about what is happening in the minds and bodies of kids entering puberty.  The woman recommended books, recommended strategies, and and told us that a lot of the behavior I've already begun to see in Nick is perfectly normal.  Oh thank God!  He's doing fine.  I stayed to the end and thanked the woman whose name I had missed because I had been chatting.  She didn't care.  She loved her subject and we talked a bit longer, about more specific details in the parking lot after she adjourned the meeting.

+2 points for extra credit

And I thanked her again, saying that her presentation was really going to help me with my boy.  It was. I'm a firm believer in checking out library books, especially the ones that help me to solve problems or understand human nature. 

+2 points for being courteous

I earned a 91% for this assignment.  It's not perfect, but it's still an A. 

Thank you for listening, jb


  1. Hello Jb, my boy also entered middle school last year and it was scary for us initially; but things turned out to be just fine!Now he is well adjusted there and doing good.I hope your Nick will love his school,too.

  2. Arti, I hear good things about the teachers at this new school, so I'm taking a deep breath and crossing my fingers. Thanks for your optimism. It helps. jb