Thursday, September 9, 2010

Not elementary any more

I am beginning to hate junior high. And I didn't realize what a touchstone it is for me.

All summer, I regaled my oldest with stories about the possibilities of new friendships with untapped groups of students just when it seemed you'd outgrown some of your old ones and elementary school. All summer, we shopped for school supplies on sale, making it a kind of hunt. All summer, we slid into a relaxed schedule with some shape. All summer, we looked forward to this new experience.

And now it is upon us.

I think my daughter is taking it much better than I. It is making me realize when some of my personal issues evolved: IN JUNIOR HIGH. At the time, it just seemed like the flow of life and progression toward adulthood. Now, I see it as something very different and so extremely counter to what my intuition tells me.

So far, it's all about rules, pleasing this teacher and that. Rules probably aimed at troublemakers, but sucking the life out of everyone else. Since when should using the bathroom be a privilege? Of course it must be monitored, but when my kid comes home saying she had to wait hours, it bothers me. Reminds me when, in seventh grade, I was late to class by two mere minutes. My time of the month and it was all new to me and too embarrassing to tell my male science teacher why I was really late. So, I said I was sick. I got my choice of a paddling or writing sentences. Pretty humiliating for a good student never before in any trouble.

Now, I would loudly boom: "Oh, Mr. Ross, I was changing my tampon and it took a little time as it's kind of new to me." Wonder what the punishment would have garnered? His reddened face?

Now I clearly see it as ego. Not mine. Maybe not even the teacher's. Maybe an institutional or cultural ego that snaps: "You will NOW do things as I say."

A rude awakening from the nurturing arms of elementary school.

That ego commands: buy MORE supplies in two days when stores are wiped out, well past back-to-school and into Christmas. Find a very, very specific calculator that none of the three office-supply or three big-box stores nearby carries. I could order a teacher's set of 10 for $200 or travel over 50 miles to another location. How difficult, really, would it have been to put that on the summer list?

I have a lot more gripes, some stem from a rather rude introduction last year and treatment as a number and not a child.

So I ache for my daughter and pray for the wisdom to guide her through this messy maze that could wound her.

Why aren't we teaching kids this age to be more of who they are, not form them like little drones into what a system says they should be. Boxing them in so they forget they ever had a sense of themselves and begin to conform to other's expectations and demands.

I now realize that's when it began for me. When I became part of the system. A system that just spits us out.

As I grieve that for myself with recent awareness, I also pray the lessons help me be a better mother in guiding my daughter into being more of who she is regardless of what any institution tells her.

Not elementary any more, is it?

• Can I identify a time early in my life when my wounds were inflicted?
• How can I safely explore them?
• How can I use them as spiritual growth for me and, possibly, in guiding others?
• When and where have I encountered institutional damage?
• How can I counter that?

My child

not really
a child anymore

grow up

just because

it's time

and I
try to
of her
own time

my heart
and breaks


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