Once upon a time in the not so distant past, I stood anxiously at a gate in JFK airport and waited for my son to appear. Tonight, I attended a parent information session at the middle school. Middle. School. The place where one comes in like an innocent little lamb and leaves as a horny teenager.
I am not ready.
To begin with, middle school remains a rough section of my past. It's where I mustered up the courage to ask a boy if he would dance with me and was met with a response that echoed in my subconscious for years to come: "My feet are tired." It's where I was taunted, teased, and harassed for talking to myself, having facial hair, and looking at someone's boyfriend the wrong way. It's where I discovered that boys prefer silly girls over smart ones.
Not the best years of my life by any stretch.
P is nervous. He's nervous about forgetting his locker combination, getting too much homework, and encountering bullies. But he's excited about the freedom and about joining computer club and chess club (a geek after my own heart.) I want him to hold on to the excitement instead of focusing on the things that make him nervous. Which means I need to let go of my own demons and let him be him.
That's harder than it looks. I teach through examples; he's already been subjected to the story of my facial hair taunter and the girl who was my BFF in 5th grade that turned all our friends against me right before middle school. He's even heard the tired feet story, complete with the part about how I barfed in the bathroom after it happened. Part of me hopes he'll learn from my experiences and mistakes, and realize that I came out okay (well, mostly) on the other side. The rest of me knows that he needs to have his own experiences, make his own mistakes, mistakes that he'll tell his kids about someday when they're getting ready to head off to middle school.
Parenting is so much harder than I ever imagined it would be, and there is still a lot of road ahead of us. Each day I have to let a little piece of my boy go and hope that he can navigate the world without me. He's a good kid. Smart, outgoing, secure in who he is. He yearns to be fiercely independent but still kisses me every morning before he gets on the bus and every night before he goes to bed. I want to hold on to my little lamb a bit longer, but I know I need to let him grow up. I need to let go of all the things that happened to me when I was his age, but I know that they have forever shaped me just as I know whatever happens to my boy in the next few years will forever shape him. He will have his heart broken, and may break a heart or two. He'll mess up, make bad decisions, ruin friendships. But he'll make new friends, learn more about the world, and figure out how to navigate through all of the crazy changes his body has in store for him.
I can't wait to see the amazing teenager come out on the other side.