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As a parent, I often find myself stuck in the precarious position of wanting to shelter my kids from the ways I suffered as a kid while also recognizing that my kids are separate human beings, different from me entirely. In other words, I really don't have the right (nor does it make much sense) for me to project my life experiences on them, assuming that just because I experienced something as negative, they will too.
Junior high is one of those things. My experience of junior high (grades 7 and 8), was absolutely soul-sucking. It was horrific. In 6th grade I started getting acne, by 7th and 8th grade it was pretty noticeable. The kids teased me beyond recall. We didn't have much money for "cool" clothes (and I wouldn't have known what to buy anyway, having no sense of style whatsoever), so I felt perpetually out of place, alienated, less than and distant.
I had very few friends, partly because we moved during that time. I was bored and unchallenged by the academics. I seemed to fit nowhere.
My insecurity and social awkwardness, compounded by the insecurity, awkwardness and sometimes cruel social hierarchies of the school, resulted in what I can only call hell-for-tweens.
And I'm sending my daughter there in the fall.
I admit, I'm terrified.
I've even offered her homeschool. She has no interest.
I'm terrified she will endure the bullying, the teasing, the mocking. I'm terrified she will find herself low on the middle school social totem pole and she will be treated badly. I'm terrified she'll be bored too.
Sometimes I wonder why we put our kids through this in the first place. Why do we assume it's natural and normal to endure years of subpar education and brutal social dynamics? What, is it some sort of American initiation process?
But then I remember that not everybody had my experience. Not everybody hated junior high. I mean, right? Of course not. Some people even enjoyed high school (and I admit it was sort of fun, way better than middle school. But I'd never go back.).
And so, if that's the case, then there's a chance that I had a role in the depth of hatred I harbored toward the institution of junior high. Maybe it was my personality, my approach, my decisions. Maybe it was just circumstantial (my location, family dynamics, age, etc.). Maybe the stars were just aligned in a way that resulted in a profoundly negative experience for me.
And I have no right to shove that on my daughter, assume it will be the same for her. Maybe she has a few things figured out that I did not. Maybe she's more confident, more grounded, more sure of herself. Maybe she'll make friends more easily, and stick with them (and we sure aren't moving her.). Maybe she'll find challenging teachers and projects and maybe, no, for sure, I'll be there with her, giving her the best I've got (though clearly it wasn't that awesome in middle school), telling her what I've learned and helping, as best I can, to transform history and give her the couple of years I never quite found.