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Monday, April 5, 2010


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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.


Chrissy said...

Oh she will get it, probably later on,isn't that how it usually goes? and there is nothing wrong w/that... But nowadays kids are so much quicker to grasp things, seems to be that way w/each generation. So she may get it during middle school...and if she gets that aha moment more power to her...

Kelly L said...

Thanks for the tip - my 8th grader told me today she wants to see it and my youngest is entering the 7th grade next year... You are right these are tough -icky years..

Love to you

Gerb said...

Sounds like a worthwhile spring break excursion with the kiddos this week. And BTW, I also would never, ever in a million bajillion years work at a junior high again. Too much awkwardness all around.

diane rene said...

I have been hearing about this book/movie, but have yet to check it out, thanks for the recap. I may take my girls (10 and 6) to see it while they are on spring break.

the lesson of learning to love yourself for who you are ... as a mom, I think it is one lesson never learned soon enough. I am still trying to get my 18 year old to see it (now we're into the dating element), and my 10 year old is struggling with it a little herself. I'll take the help wherever I can get it!

I just keeping asking myself, why can't they see the beauty in them that I do? it would be so much easier if they did! ;0)

thanks again, Di

Anaise said...

I hope my Emily eventually understands that message, too.

I taught middle school English for 2 years--at an inner city school that received extra funding for gang control and anti-gang education.

Just thought you'd enjoy that tidbit of my past.

Lori said...

Chrissy--I hope so! She's a-struggling! I think right now that it's my son who's the ultra-secure one, while Autumn is the very opposite. And it's funny, because Autumn is the one who oozes talent. Kids are so interesting.

Kelly--let me know how you guys like it. You have one coming out on the other side of that dread sixth grade year, and one entering its alter-ego--ninth grade! Fun Times! I loved my 9th graders when I taught them, though--they had some sense about them. :)

Gerb--Definitely worthwhile, and the things you learn about people...didn't realize you worked in a junior high! Doing what? "Awkward" is the word, for sure.

Diane--Your girls are around the perfect ages--just a year younger than my Autumn and Lawson, and they loved it. It has just enough silliness in it for the younger kid, with enough moral and coolness for the older to balance it out.

And you are so right...everything would be so much easier if our kids could just see themselves as we did. Of course, they might be a little arrogant and egocentric, too, because of course they're perfect... ;) lol.

Anaise--I knew there was some reason I liked you...my best friend taught m.s. English for 8 or 9 years. I never understood how she did it, but always thought the world of her. She was an amazing teacher. And she taught at a "white collar" school...none of that inner city stuff (which she's actually doing now, as a reading specialist, so I should amend that statement). Whew-ee. Props to you guys.

Gerb said...

It was back when I did sign language interpreting full-time. For one year they had me work at the high school in the mornings and the middle school the rest of the day. I almost quit after that year but thankfully they moved me back to the high school full-time instead. The Deaf kids were actually great, even respectful. I even met some teachers who I still remain friends with today; it was most of the student body that drove me bonkers. You nailed it when you said 'teen angst'. Blech.

Just SO said...

I want to see this movie badly! Maybe that's something I can do with the kids over Spring Break. My daughter hits Jr. High in Fall as well. So far she knows who she is and likes herself. Hopefully that will carry over into these next three years.

Lori said...

Gerb--should've known. DOH!

Shanna--that's awesome that your girlie has such a clear view of herself. This story can only reinforce how wonderful that is. There's a great female "sidekick" (sort of...I can see her becoming a sidekick in later novels). Have fun and let me know what you think. ;)

Rachel said...

Shudder. Jr. High. I haven't seen the movie yet. Need to.

I think sometimes as adults we still run ourselves ragged trying to figure out where we fit in. At least I do......

Lisa said...

Thanks for stopping my blog, Lori.

My boys had talked about these "Wimpy" books for a while and were anxious to go see the movie. It was really good timing- like your daughter, mine are entering middle school next year. I, too, hope they internalize some of the "be yourself" message.

I thought the movie did a brilliant job of capturing those tween years. It certainly took me back!

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