The Rantings of an Ill-Equipped Parent: Reflections on Sending a Kid to Junior High School
Learning to Let Go
If anyone reads this, please do not take it too seriously. This is one of those blog posts that is more about self-therapy than making any kind of a reasonable argument. Sometimes, I find writing to be a helpful form of emotional release, and hopefully, there is someone out there who can get something out of this.
I often wonder what I was thinking when I concluded that I was ready to be a parent. Given the fact that I am basically an overgrown child on many levels, it is strange that I would ever believe that I could effectively raise a fellow child. As a general rule, I have never been a big fan of trying to influence the behavior of anyone else. (This is part of the reason why I no longer teach at the junior high or high school level.) But as my kids get older, I am finding that trying to influence their behavior is actually easier than letting go.
In some ways, parenting gets easier as kids get older. I don’t miss changing diapers, folding strollers, feeling obligated to keep my kids entertained at every moment, or waking up every night at about three in the morning. But there was always something comforting about knowing that our kids were under our constant supervision. And on some level, I will always cherish those moments when I know for sure that the kids are tucked safely into their beds. Because as the years roll on, those moments will inevitably become more fleeting.
My older daughter will be entering seventh grade next year. I will spare the details, but it looks like she will be leaving the comfortable little private, Christian school that she has been attending since first grade. There have been times where we have thought of moving her in the past, but she has stayed at the school this long because she is happy in this relatively safe environment filled with people she has grown up with. But she can’t stay there forever, and the prospect of making a shift to the world of public school in seventh grade is more appealing than dropping her into a high school environment filled with people she does not know.
So what’s the big deal? Kids have been transitioning to new public schools for decades, and from what I can tell, I am more worried than she is. My basic problem, when you come right down to it, is that I have a fairly low opinion of the human race. And the qualities that make a large percentage of the human race not worth knowing seem to be accentuated the most between the ages of 13-18. Oh yes, I still remember the morons of my youth well. And now, as a community college teacher, I get to see on a daily basis the people that our fine educational institutions are cranking out. This is not to say, of course, that my students are all morons. Many of them are fantastic, and a large number of others are decent students who seem like decent people. But others, to put it nicely, do not belong anywhere near a college classroom or, heaven forbid, my daughters. And given the fact that most of these less than stellar “scholars” are high school graduates, one is forced to wonder about the academic standards of our public schools. These, after all, are the ones “committed” enough to education to bother signing up for college classes. God knows what is happening with those who either dropped out of high school or were content with a high school “education.” Apparently, things have not changed much from the days of my youth.
Ultimately, my feelings have little to do with the quality of schools or students. Instead, I am scared to death of the prospect of sending my kids out into a world thoroughly screwed up by the large percentage of idiots who make up the human race. The junior high and high school years are merely the times when the painful realities of life can be the most accentuated and difficult to deal with. Of course, I know that my kids need to grow up and learn to deal with difficult, possibly dangerous, and stupid people. But does it have to be this soon? And do I have to be one of the people who makes a decision that can impact the rest of her life? It’s bad enough that I have to make my own decisions.
For decades, Hollywood has been cranking out movies and TV shows about the junior high and high school experience, and it’s amazing to see the continuity over time. The same stories keep being told about the same stupid teenagers behaving in the same arrogant, insensitive, narrow-minded, self-centered, and downright cruel ways. And in spite of all these stories about the evils of forming cliques, bullying the unpopular, and doing idiotic things in order to be “cool,” the stories never seem to change, indicating that, to a certain degree, teenagers are the same as ever. Somehow, young people don’t seem to learn any lessons from the negative representations of themselves on screen. So why the hell would any parent want to send their kids into that jungle?
As you can probably tell, this is more about my personal baggage than the welfare of my kids. We parents have the unavoidable habit of living vicariously through our children. At times, this can be a great blessing, giving us a chance to relive some of the best aspects of life. But it can also bring up some bad memories. On some level, I know that my kids will probably be fine. Of course, I’m not so sure about myself. Maybe I should find some sort of a cryogenic freeze chamber where I can hibernate for a few years, waking up just in time for them to go to college. From what I remember, there were fewer morons there, at least when I was young.