Uniforms? Yes, please!

Paula Brown

Middle School. Ugh. I hate it. I hated it when I was there and I hate it now when my kid is there. Honestly, it doesn’t seem like much has changed in these (insert scary number here) years. And I have three more years with this one and then a whole other kid to get through it, so I won’t be done with middle school for almost a decade!

While it’s been hard to watch my kids go from babies to toddlers to elementary-schoolers, it’s also been fun. They get to see and do new things, but at the same time, they’re kind of wrapped in a little cocoon where you can feel involved and observe what they’re into, a safety net, if you will. You want to mess with my kid? You’re going to have to go through me first, pal.

But middle school? It’s basically throwing your kids to the sharks (with laser beams attached to their frickin’ heads) and hoping they come home in one piece. While I see the value in a kid learning to navigate the scary world and get through tough decisions on his or her own accord, I also wish there was more of a buffer zone here.

No more notes from teachers, no more calendars telling you what’s going on at school, no more homework check-lists to sign, no more fun parties where you get to buy, I mean make, heart cookies and send juice boxes and awkwardly try to sit in your kid’s tiny chair in their classroom while simultaneously trying to talk and not talk to other parents. It’s just all gone now. I have nothing but a sarcastic, somewhat hostile, not-quite-teenager-not-quite-kid on my hands. God help me.

Then I remind myself what middle school was actually like and am not surprised he’s a bit hostile. These are the “formative years,” as they say — apparently forming vast knowledge on how to be complete and utter jerkwads. Basically, if Middle School had a face, it would look like, well, it doesn’t matter what it looks like everyone would still make fun of it and it would come home crying.

Our society has learned how to manage our entire lives with a device the size of a PopTart, but we can’t figure out how to stop making mean kids that thrive on making others feel like garbage until they hate themselves and question every single thing they do or say.

So far, about halfway through his first year, my kid thinks there’s something wrong with all his clothes, his shoes, his haircut, his electronic devices, and everything I say or do. I don’t know who this kid is that has made mine think everything he wears must be UnderArmour and his shoes must cost more than I spend on groceries for a week, and he’s somehow inferior to you because he doesn’t have an iPhone 6 in fifth grade, but I don’t like you. And for your information I’m in like 32nd grade and I don’t even have an iPhone 6 so back off!

This is the hardest part of parenting I’ve encountered (with unpredictable projectile vomiting induced by hit-or-miss gag reflex in restaurants as a close second). How do I teach my son his value when it seems like everything around him is telling him he’s wrong and not good enough?

I’m considering a hypnotist or a recording to play at night while he sleeps: “You is kind, you is important, you is smart, you is just fine wearing clearance rack Nikes.” Any other ideas?

Paula Brown is a writer, mom of two boys, one of which is thankfully just in Kindergarten with school parties she will never again complain about. She can be reached at paulacourtneybrown@gmail.com.

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