School starts tomorrow. Perhaps you can hear me tapdancing.

We’ve entered the stage where I now say on repeat, “Why are you eating that? Those are for school.”

“Buddy, if you’re thirsty, pour yourself a glass of water. The bottled water is for School.”

“Dude. If you’re hungry, make a peanut butter sandwich. The frozen uncrustables are for SCHOOL.”

“Stop eating the Doritos! They. Are. For. SCHOOL.”

“Mom, we have to eat them now. You’ll stop buying them in two weeks.”

A fair point.

At the start of the school year, I’m all planners and lunches and optimism. It’s a matter of time before it all falls apart, people. The clock is ticking.

I was sitting on the outskirts of the middle schoolers at the summer picnic. The email said, “This is absolutely not a school sanctioned event, and all the students will require a chaperone.” So the park swarmed with pre-adolescents trying to establish their independence at a social event their parents were required to attend, and all the parents were pretending it didn’t bother us. Oh, the tension.

I think there are three basic kinds of middle school parents:

  1. Those who planned the party and are grieving this transition from elementary school. They are the ones cutting the cake that’s decorated with giant frosting balloons.
  2. Those who make friends with their children’s friends’ parents. You can spot them because they are the center of this social event, talking and laughing under the pavilion in a circle of people they’ve done life and birthday parties with for seven years now.
  3. The ones who came because they were asked to chaperone. They’re the ones on the periphery on their smart phones. I am the kind that put on sunscreen and wore a sundress and brought a cardigan and a novel and my writing notebook. Here if you need me, middle schooler of mine. I’ll be over here under the tree.

They had volleyball and kickball and corn hole and loud music and some situations where boys were wrestling and tackling on the grass, and then Tucker’s voice broke through the crowd on a microphone to announce a dance competition. “I repeat: there will be a dance competition over here in two minutes!”

My heart smiles over his confidence.

There’s a special place in my heart for middle school girls. They wander around in their clusters of safety. I can spot the ones who already understand sexiness, and they use their hair and legs as tools of communication. I can spot the ones who are still children, trying to read the cues and keep up. Most endearingly, I can spot the pretty ones who already think they’re fat. I can spot the ones on the fringe, who tag along with the confident ones, hoping confidence is contagious.

There’s a special place in my heart for middle school girls. (It appears that my middle schooler seems to have a special place in theirs.)

A little while ago, the DJ played songs from Dora the Explorer and the Backyardigans. The kids all erupted to sing along with cheers of nostalgia. They went crazy over those songs. They felt like something had just been erected from eons ago. But they didn’t realize that we moms know all those songs, too. It wasn’t that many years ago that those same melodies played in our living rooms.

All the hugs to you this week, Moms of Middle Schoolers, as they navigate their transitions and their exhaustions.

Let’s keep them fed and loved. They’re hungry in every way.


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