Today my oldest begins high school. And while I am sure there will be many adjustments -- new friends, more homework, higher expectations -- I can't help but feel that that this will be more of a transition for me than for him. It's bittersweet for parents to watch their babies get older. But there is little question he's ready. He's probably been ready for a while.
And the class placement gods have smiled upon my daughter who is beginning fourth grade. She will spend the year with the same amazing teacher both my boys had when they were 9 going on 10. One of her dearest friends is in the class, as well. Sure, she's a little bit nervous, but in some ways her inaugural day of class should feel like homecoming.
Yes, all first days of school are a big deal. But some are bigger than others. And I can't help but feel that the biggest deal we have going on in our house this week is that my middle child is starting middle school.
I am not sure being a middle child is ever easy to begin with; I've always felt there was some truth to concept of "middle child syndrome" (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Middle%20Child%20Syndrome). And I definitely watched enough episodes of The Brady Bunch growing up to know it kind of sucked being Jan. Precariously sandwiched between "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia" and the "youngest one in curls," Jan was always a bit lost. I should really share an episode or two with my number-two child; he could probably relate. He too has an at-times-annoyingly dynamic older sibling to whom things tend to come easily, as well as a sweet baby sister, minus the lisp, who doesn't mind exploiting the benefits of birth order to her full advantage.
And now he is going to middle school -- a place that may very well rank behind Rodney Dangerfield and the cast of Jersey Shore in terms of getting no respect. I always hear from other parents how much they fear it for their children, or how much they hated it themselves. Whether the culprit is raging hormones, impenetrable cliques or fear of bullying, it is commonly accepted that middle school is going to be dreadful. I'm not sure it has to be that way. Sixth through eighth grade seemed to go just fine for my eldest.
But The Secret Power of Middle Children , a recently published book sheds some light on why middle children may just be the best prepared to take on new challenges, like the hallways of sixth grade. The research contends middle kids tend to be more flexible and self-aware than their older and younger siblings, often acting as "agents of change" in business, politics, and I'd assume on the playground. They are fierce negotiators and excellent team players, skills that should help make the middle school years a much more manageable experience.
And besides, my son is raring to go. He is excited to take a "city bus," as opposed to a "babyish" yellow one, to and from school. And he's psyched for seventh grade when he gets to start a foreign language and change classrooms for each subject. And he has reminded me, many, many times, that pizza will now be a choice for hot lunch every day. From his perspective, it's all good.
I'm not fooling myself; middle school may very well be a bumpy ride. But it is navigating those bumps that my middle child has been practicing from the day he lost his baby-of-the-family status to his younger sister.
So for the next three years, we will think Oreos instead of donuts. We will memorize all the words to that catchy Jimmy Eat World song (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FV-HPOHu8mY) from 10 years back. And we will use my son's favorite (and currently running) TV show for birth order inspiration"sorry, Jan. Because who wouldn't choose Lisa Simpson's extraordinary poise and empathy over Bart's hedonism or Maggie's inability to walk or talk, even after more than 20 years on the air.
There is a beauty that can only exist in the middle--and it's my job as a parent to help him find it every day.