He says he is shy and that he doesn’t know anyone. He tells me he feels uncomfortable. There are twice as many kids in his classes as there were at the old school. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, maybe we can find a way to make a change..
We’re two days into the new school year and some of the stories that my son tells about middle school have brought back old memories. Not all of them are good.
He is a good student and most subjects are easy for him but math isnâ€™t one of them. It could be one of his favorites. It could be something that tickles and stimulates his mind but it is not. Some of that can be attributed to bad math teachers and the bad attitude he has developed towards it. He is 14 years-old and has already decided that he knows as much math as he is going to need. But there is a bigger problem than his bad attitude and bad teachers.
Her name is Denise and she teases him constantly. From the moment he walks into class until the bell rings she will be the epitome of the mean girl. For 50 minutes she will pick apart his clothes, the way he looks, how he walks and anything else that she thinks will hurt him. For 50 minutes he will grit his teeth and try toÂ ignore her barbs, pretend that he doesnâ€™t feel their bite.
If she were a boy he would be ok because he knows how to deal with that. Were she blessed with a dangling appendage he would threaten her with bodily harm. Were she male he would be in her face and the traditional methods that boys use to work out their differences would be in play.
But she isnâ€™t and he is at a loss. He wonâ€™t share his misery with anyone. It is junior high and he hasnâ€™t developed the thick skin that will protect him later in life. Appearances are critical and he canâ€™t afford to let anyone think that this girl has a thing on him. But it gets harder each day not to scream at her.
From Some wounds take longer to heal
I tell him that everyone feels a little bit lost and awkward. He looks up at me and I see uncertainty in his eyes. He wants to believe but he isn’t quite ready to.
It is hard to see him like this but there is not a lot I can do. I tell him I will always be here and that I will support him. I remind him that I will listen and then I tell him that he cannot whine.
He hasn’t. He isn’t crying. He is composed and I am glad. But my gut tells me that I need to push him just a little now.
“I won’t coddle you. You aren’t a baby anymore and you haven’t been in years. You need to walk tall and show some confidence. I have faith. Don’t be a sucker.”
My words are a blend of support and male bravado. Someone is going to try to mess with him. Someone will call him names or talk about his clothing/walk/hair.
My words are supposed to prick just a little. When I see him arch his back I smile and tell him to remember to use that spine when necessary. Pick and choose your moments. Ignore what you can and when you have to stick out your chest and tell them to stick it.
We are standing in front of the school. My middle sister is holding my backpack. That is because Danny pushed me…twice. My sister recognizes the look on my face. I have had enough.
When he tries to push me again I punch him in the mouth. It is supposed to be hard enough to knock out all of his teeth and rattle his bones. I just tried to give him all I have got.
It doesn’t quite do what I want. He doesn’t suffer the way I want him to, but he does go down hard.
Danny is a year older than me and has picked on me on and off. This will be the end of it. It won’t be the last fight I have in junior high or high school.
Times really were different then. We didn’t have a zero tolerance policy. Teachers didn’t come running to break things up. Surely they saw us but they took their time getting in between. I don’t if why that was, just that it existed.
Bed time comes and my big guy is all smiles. He is happy and there is a light energy radiating from him. He looks up at me and asks if I am going to let him miss school.
“No, you need to go. No options. Education is too important.”
He smiles at me and says, “that is what I thought.”
That smile helps. I feel better that he isn’t as nervous as the prior night, but it will take a while for me to sleep. There are lots of good memories but some of the rougher ones have come to play and I wonder if he’ll have similar stories to tell one day.