The Middle is the Hardest Part
In which I quote The Offspring. Inexplicably!
I remember middle school. Sort of?
I remember a few teachers (shout out to Mr. Rollings, the ‘cool’ history teacher who pitted out his shirts and got fired for banging the substitute band teacher on school grounds), a few classes (I used to read my goofy short stories to my 7th grade English peers - DM me if you want to know what they were about!) (on second thought maybe don’t 🤐), a few kids (I think one of their last names started with a Z?), and that’s about it.
I thought I’d forgotten most of it because I’m so old, but watching my son navigate middle school makes me wonder if I repressed it all. Because he is not having a good time.
A huge chunk of today’s kids got screwed by the pandemic, especially the ones that lost their last couple of years of elementary school. It eliminated their on-ramp and dumped them from 4th grade straight into 6th, which is a big gap at their age. It’s made the already fraught transition into middle-school - itself a waystation on the way to high school and teenage-hood - even harder. My son is not digging it.
A lot of younger kids are ready to grow up and get older and get all the perks that that entails. My 12yo is content to be 12, at least right now. He feels robbed of the last few years of elementary school and is having trouble getting comfortable. To be fair, a lot of kids his age are struggling - the principal has flat-out told us the crop of students in my son’s grade is “challenging,” and if you know anything about middle-schoolers, that’s code for “they’re dicks.”
(I actually went to “junior high,” which was 7th/8th/9th, a grouping that makes more sense to me. 6th graders are still little kids while some 8th graders have mustaches! In the words of The Offspring: you gotta keep ‘em separated!)
My 12yo is not a dick. He’s sensitive and sweet and a little nerdy and he misses when everyone was nicer. It’s not easy to be nice when hormones are starting to kick in, peer pressure is ramping up, and memes are the currency of the day. (I swear my kid speaks in meme, and as someone who literally creates memes, you’d think I’d understand and not be annoyed, and you’d be wrong!)
As usual, I have no wisdom to impart. I just wanted to vent, because I assume my son isn’t alone, and solidarity is about the best we can offer each other. The best I can offer my son is to keep his head down, find a like-minded kid or two with whom to form a phalanx, and not to use the word “phalanx” around any of the kids with mustaches.
Controversy: You know I’m right, ladies!
Twitter: I stand by this
Pop Culture Stuff
Now that I ride the subway to work a few times a week, I actually have time to read! I read a crime novel I borderline hated - We Begin At the End - and now I’m halfway through Salem’s Lot, one of his Stephen King’s 70s classics.
When I was in middle school (THEMATIC LINK!) I read a ton of Stephe’s 80s/90s stuff - It, Tommyknockers, The Stand, The Dark Half, Misery, Needful Things, etc. - but none of the earlier ones. So I’m surprised by how old-fashioned Salem’s Lot is - heavy on obvious vampire tropes. I suspect it’s because vamps hadn’t yet been put through the pop culture machine of the 80s/90s with stuff like Near Dark, The Lost Boys, Anne Rice’s books (Lestat was either the first or second “adult” novel I ever read, I was so proud when I finished it!), Buffy, etc. I’m enjoying Salem’s Lot, I’m just saying! Also there’s a new movie adaptation coming out maybe this year with BOB from Top Gun: Maverick. Just FYI.
I also finally watched Free Solo on Disney+, which is one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen, finished Black Bird (Apple TV+), which I didn’t like much beyond Paul Walter Hauser, and rapped along to 2pac’s “Do For Love” on the walk home from school drop-off.
I dunno, man. Dry January is almost over! We have decided to pass on the Peloton but may get an elliptical! My football-loving 7yo plans to watch the Super Bowl with me (I was his age when my parents let me watch my first, I bet you can’t guess which one it was! Only please don’t guess you’ll hurt my feelings.) And we still need a car. 😫😫😫
That’s all I got for now.
But next week I’ll have something else! See you then!
Post one of those 7th grade short stories you coward!
Also you gonna root for the Bengals in the Super Bowl?
Also thank you for the very kind substack reco. Appreciate you.
A couple of years ago, our school district closed two elementary schools and changed the middle schools from grades 6-8 to 5-8. My son, who just turned 12 and is now in sixth grade, missed half of third grade because of COVID, spent fourth grade in a mask, and then got thrown straight into middle school a year early. He's doing surprisingly well, and I thought the middle school staff was very conscientious about helping them with the transition, but I'm sure a lot of his classmates are still recovering from the last few years.