Friday, June 27

Middle School Muddle: The Kids, They- Are- A'Changin

For me, the clearest indication that my son's childhood as he knew it was a thing of the past started with the cupcakes.

At a middle school orientation two years ago, I was the ridiculously out-of-touch mother who raised my hand in a crowded gym and innocently asked if it was still okay to bring cupcakes to celebrate a birthday in sixth-grade.

The crowd laughed. The principal rolled his eyes. I blushed and learned an important lesson about this next stage of life, which I've dubbed The Age of Embarrassment. It's time for parents to back off.

Parents are all over the best elementary schools, organizing fund-drives and bake sales and penny drives, going on field trips, and yes -- carrying in those giant tupperware boxes filled with cupcakes.

Not so in middle school. Two years ago, I took my sixth grader on the first day. On the second day, I walked a few blocks behind. (Could anything be worse than being seen with an actual parent?) and after that, he traveled mostly with his friends or alone. Now, if I want to stop by the school, I can't take the same entrance.

Birthdays? Forget it. He doesn't want anyone to know.

Not all middle schoolers become this self-conscious, of course, and none of this means middle schools don't need support from parents -- they do, more than ever! My best advice to soon-to-be middle school parents is to ask other parents how they handled the transition -- and find out from the principal, parent coordinator and the PTA what's most needed. Trust me, there is plenty to do.

Today, we said goodbye to my younger son's elementary school, to teachers, parents and staff we knew for so many years they felt like family. There were hugs, tears and presents and then it was over.

It's almost time to pack up all the stuffed animals and Dr. Seuss books too, reminders of the elusive and transitory nature of childhood. But first, though, I'm going to bake a batch of cupcakes. They may not be for a class party, but they'll still fill the kitchen with the smell of childhood.


Bronx_shrink said...

I don't yet have a middle school aged child and I am treasuring these last couple of years before that time hits!

What I've seen of the middle schoolers I work with is that no, they don't want mom or dad in (or near) their school with cupcakes. However, they happily celebrate when any of their classmates brings in a treat to share (not nec. for birthdays) so bake away, but then slink back into the cave from which all parents were supposedly spawned. :-)

Anonymous said...

Gosh, this post made me cry and my little one is only entering K, with v. small group of children she has been with since she was 22 months old! (We turned down a g&t spot in part because of the class size!)

I see so many people there children to grow up...why? It will be here soon enough.

And for you, yes, bake a batch of cupcakes or two. Leave some out for your son. Middle school or not, most likely he will not turn one down!

Anonymous said...


I had tears in my eyes after this article. My little one will soon be a preteen and off to junior high. Aside from diligently going through middle school options (and planning 'the big girl' talk) it's quite a process that absolutely moves me to know she's leaving behind the days where she would love her b-day parties with her class and just being a small carefree, fun loving little girl.

What a blessing the sail is and will always be :)

Anonymous said...

I have a 7th grader going to 8th in September. I still walk him to school, the only difference is that he makes me give him is backback when he sees other kids in his grade. Its almost like his middle schooler radar goes off. Do I really care, no...I like the fact that he is learning how to become more independent.