Growing Pains

Daily Foglifter:  Espresso has 1/3 of the caffeine of a regular coffee.  Triple shot, anyone? 

Today was the day I took my 11-year-old son to his first day of middle school.  He was excited and nervous.  Mostly nervous.

In his mind, he saw towering 8th graders, intent on finding a helpless 6th grader to beat the crap out of, at every turn.  He saw himself wandering the vast halls, tightly clutching the schedule printout that screams, “I’m new!” in his sweaty hands, having no idea where to go.  His humiliation doubled by having to ask a teacher to take him to his next class (late) where 30 pairs of judging eyes follow him to the lonely seat in the back of the classroom.  He doesn’t know a single soul in any of his classes and is destined to be that “weird, new, home school kid.”  I remember the home school kids and that’s what everybody said about them–including me, though I’m not proud of it.

Maybe that’s not what went through his mind at all.  But it definitely went through mine.

Fortunately, none of these things is very likely.  When we got to the middle school, classes were changing and there were no gigantic 8th graders.  Everyone looked just like Aidan.  The classrooms are all clearly marked with huge signs hanging from the ceiling.  I felt some of the tension leave my body.

It got better when we got in the counselor’s office.  He was resuming his place in the gifted program with the same kids he went to school with last year.  It is a military town, so there might be some slight differences, but not much.  The schedule was normal.  Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, Math, Health,  and…gym.

Oh no.

Now, Aidan loves gym.  He loves to play baseball, football, kickball, whatever.  So what’s the problem?

Dressing out.

The term itself makes me shiver.  There is nothing so embarrassing as taking your clothes off in front of a bunch of strangers.  Especially at the age where you don’t know what your body is going to look like from one day to the next.   You might be saying, “Well, you’re a girl.  It’s different for a girl.”  If you are saying that, you don’t know Aidan.

Aidan has always been extremely private about his body.  He’s shut the door to the bathroom when bathing and his room when dressing since he was about three.  He wouldn’t even change from his T-shirt into the new T-ball jersey in the dugout where everyone could see.  It’s just his way.

I know that he is probably like this because he has so many siblings.  His next youngest brother is only 15 months behind him.  His body is the only thing that inherently belongs to him and I don’t blame him for wanting to keep it to himself.

Maybe you think  it’s my fault he is so private because of some weird shame I’ve instilled into his subconscious.  I can assure you this is not the case, as my other four children have no problem running around the house stark naked.  You tell them to change clothes, they drop trou wherever they happen to be standing.  In fact, it may be time for me to start shaming them a little bit.  I’m sorry.  I mean teach them some modesty.

So, back to Aidan.  The counselor begins to explain this most horrid of requirements for gym and I watch his face closely.  It’s passive at first.  But then, dawn begins to break.  As the realization of what she’s saying makes its way into his brain, his face starts to change.  His eyes widen and his nose starts to do that little thing it does when he’s embarrassed or uncomfortable.  It kind of elongates and the nostrils flare a little bit, causing little creases to appear at the corners of his nose.   It passes quickly, however, and I relax.  He’s accepted it, as all kids must, and he will be fine.

The counselor stands up, shakes my hand, and leads Aidan into his adolescence.  I hang back for a few minutes so I won’t embarrass him and say a little prayer for a good first day.   It occurs to me that I will have to endure this four more times and I am suddenly very tired.

Today was confusing.  On one hand, I was relieved that everything was fine.  On the other, I was a little hurt that it was so easy.  I couldn’t  understand how a person can feel two completely opposite emotions at the same time about the same situation.  The more I thought about it, the more it made sense.  The emotions come from two different places.

The first place is the rational mind.  Here, it’s a good thing when a child is able to grow and adapt to his environment.  It’s the mark of a confident, able, and well-adjusted child.

The second place is the mom mind.  Therein lies the images of the 11-year-old as a newborn, depending on his mother for everything. In the mom mind, that child is always going to be the baby who needed her kisses to fix the boo-boos, her hugs to keep the nightmares away, and her songs to lull him to sleep.  She’s the one who protected him from the dangers of the world.

So both minds exist in one brain–forever.  Nothing can separate them.  Not middle school, high school, college, marriage, grandchildren, or middle age.  He is my baby, my first, and he always will be.


“Grown don’t mean nothing to a mother.  A child is a child.  They get bigger, older, but grown?  What’s that suppose to mean?  In my heart it don’t mean a thing.”     ~Toni Morrison, Beloved, 1987


17 thoughts on “Growing Pains

  1. oh how i hated to “dress out” especially in middle school! crazy how it goes full circle and now are children are having the same experiences. life goes by so quickly.

  2. Oh how I love this. The mom mind – nail on head. I feel your heart because it mirrors mine and I’m sure many other Mom’s. So happy to have you in our linky,

    • Thank you. The mom mind is a complicated and confusing place.

      I’m glad I saw the linky. I haven’t looked at my first posts in a long time and I really needed to. The blog has changed a lot but I think I need to get back in the spirit of the early posts.

  3. I love that Toni Morrison quote you have at the end. It couldn’t be more true. I am nervous, and my child is only 3. He’s transitioning from daycare to preschool and eventually from preschool to kindergarten, and I worry about him every step of the way. And it’s better the mothers worry than the kids, right?

  4. Thanks, everyone, for the comments. Aidan adjusted amazingly well, better than I did, I’m sure. Every milestone our kids reach tug us in two directions. My 2yo breaks my heart and makes me so proud on a daily basis. Motherhood is not for the faint-hearted!

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