In roughly five months, Autumn will enter the not-so-hallowed halls of the county middle school, ready and eager to be forever changed by the Dread Middle School Experience.
I've always described these grades--six through eight--as the absolute only grades I would NEVER, in a MILLION, BAZILLION years, EVER teach. I mean, really...why would you subject yourself to that perpetual sloppy tween angst, the indescribable skin horrors, the shuddering pubescence...the...smells? Ick. I'm so glad I only have to revisit it one child at a time. Small, contained doses are okay. I'll be okay.
At least, that's what I keep telling myself.
What brought this on? I took my car in to the car wash today for its annual ultimate cleaning (I do mean annual), and, needing to kill some serious time, strolled across the four-lane to the mall with the kids. Has anyone ever attempted to cross a busy four-lane road with two kids in tow? I had a death-grip on Lawson's sweaty seven year-old hand, convinced that he would attempt to make a break for it at any moment and dive in front of a speeding Escalade. Forbearing that, I was sure that a rogue bus driver would decide that the curb was The Spot To Be. All other considerations aside, you know those eyes just aren't what they used to be, and I was positive I had missed a vehicle at some point in my look once, look twice, look a few dozen more times just to be on the safe side routine. I'm such a freak.
But we made it. We did a little spring and summer clothes shopping and then settled in to watch Diary of a Wimpy Kid. This movie was amazing....Ferris Bueller for middle schoolers. I cackled all the way through, and empathy-cringed at some of the more painful moments.
Diary is about this kid, Greg Heffley, who suffers acutely as he tries to fit in and discover the secret to the elusive "popularity." He condescends terribly to his best friend, whom he worries will just "never get it," because he's so different. He runs in circles trying this, and trying that, and failing miserably at each and every thing...because nothing quite fits. Meanwhile Rowley, that best friend, walks his own unique path happily and unapologetically. To Greg's frustration, it is Rowley who gains popularity without even trying while Greg's desperate efforts glean him nothing but a seat on the cafeteria floor.
It hit me about half way through the movie: what a hero Rowley is. What a fabulous movie for my daughter to be seeing on the cusp of entering middle school. I leaned over to Autumn and whispered into her ear. "You know why everyone likes Rowley so much?"
"Why?" she whispered back.
"Because he knows exactly who he is, and he doesn't try to be someone he isn't," I told her. She nodded, and we went back to watching the movie.
I hope she gets it, and lives it. It's something so many kids really struggle with, for a long time--being unafraid to be true to themselves. She's fearful of being labeled as different right now, and I understand that. It's difficult to see past being different to the other side of yourself--the strong, secure side.
Strong, secure...even when you're just this side of wimpy.