We just chose a middle school for our son. The process was agonizing. He has been so safe and warm throughout elementary school, constantly under adult supervision, lovingly ferried from school to soccer to chess to play dates. The child has no freedom. And that's the way I like it.
Next year, Dale will often be at large. He'll join the unruly pack of preteens that rove through Upper Montclair, playing chicken on the train tracks and generally being stupid. We'll have to buy him a cellphone so we can find him, and he us.
In our town, there are three middle schools. I preferred the crunchy one that is half the size of our kids' elementary school. At this middle school, they believe in a long recess and outside time. Plus, I really liked the earnest language arts teacher I met. It seemed like the public middle school version of the private preschool our kids attended.
Dale, however, had other plans. He wanted to go to the school three blocks from our house. It has two big gyms and offers an architecture elective. It's the math and science magnet, and he excels in these subjects. And, he said, "All my friends are going there."
Long story short, all his friends are not going there. Their parents were able to talk them into the crunchy granola school, while I allowed Dale to make the first really big decision of his life.
And I've been so anxious about the change. I was totally fine about him starting preschool and kindergarten. Of course, at those times I was working full-time and distracted.
Yesterday, I realized why I'm so freaked out about my boy starting middle school. It's because sixth grade was pretty much the nadir of my life. As always, everything is ALL ABOUT ME.
So, anyway, back to me. We had just moved and I started the year at a new school. I walked onto the playground that first day, and a boy took one look at me and said, "That girl's so fat she looks like a Butterball Turkey!" The name stuck.
I don't think that will happen to Dale, and yet. There is a picture of him sitting in his classroom on the first day of Kindergarten. His lunchbox is on the desk, and he looks so small and scared. I can't stop thinking about that photo.