Sockpants and Super Heroes: Projections
I have been dreaming about the start of this particular school year since the fall of 2010. That was the fall I had put off school shopping until the very last moment as the thought of dragging a rambunctious soon-to-be first grader, a finicky toddler and a colicky eight-month old around crowded stores was just more than I could handle. As we arrived home I felt overwhelmed with whining kids, dirty dishes, sticky floors, pressing ISAAC Foundation work deadlines, and years of sleep deprivation, I reached for a note pad and quickly calculated exactly how many years it would be before I would be making these preparations for all three of my children entering all day, every day school. As I did the math, I found myself trying to focus on the September 2016 date through tears welling up in my eyes. While it was only six years away, it might as well have been a half-century.
As tends to happen, life passed by in time warp fashion and I finally found myself doing school preparations for all of my kids who would finally be in school all day, every day. But what I had failed to factored into this early calculation many years ago was that this would also be the year that my oldest child would transition from a small elementary school of just 47 kids to a Spokane middle school of over 700 students (cue psycho music). With each passing week of the summer I found myself getting more and more anxious. Would his classmates tease him for his uncontrollable Tourette tics? Would I be able to afford the trendy school clothes and swag that the other kids had? Will he know how to open his locker? In the sea of identical yellow school busses, will he be able to find the one that brings him home?
I stacked the deck as much as possible. I spent the summer getting Tyler acclimated to medications to better control his tics. While Tyler attended a privately arranged middle school orientation, I sat observantly on the bench outside of the office taking mental notes of the brands of clothes and swag the kids were toting. I dug out my old combination lock from the days when I had the motivation and energy to workout at the gym and made sure he was proficient with a combination lock. I googled bus schedules and route numbers to be confident that he could find his way home.
Despite all my hard work at middle school preparation, I still found myself extremely uptight as we headed off for the last and final step of middle school preparation, Back to School Night. As we walked into the crowded school full of parents and students, I felt my blood pressure rise. Had I done enough to help Tyler be prepared for middle school? As we made our way through the gym to collect his class schedule, Tyler asked, “Mom, isn’t this where you went to school?“ I stopped midway through the gym, looked around and replied, “Yeah, I was a Thunderbird back in the day.” He smiled and asked, “Does it bring back memories?” That’s when I realized most of my anxieties about Tyler starting middle school were stemming from my own middle school missteps and failures. I was the kid who didn’t wear the latest and greatest brand names, I was the kid who got locked out of my locker, and I was the one who took off on the wrong bus headed to the wrong side of Spokane.
It was in that moment that I decided to not let my insecurities become Tyler’s insecurities. I took a deep, cleansing breath and nonchalantly replied, “It does actually. And did you know that my middle school years led to some of the best times of my life? You’re going to have so much fun, Tyler.” With a smile on his face, we made our way through the hallways finding his classes and learning his routine. Not only did we pass kids that he knew from his various summer camps and sports teams, I was surprised to see faces of parents that I recognized from the days when I had wandered those same hallways. While we may not have ran in the same circles 28 years ago, we all had something in common today. We all wore the same anxious expressions on our faces as helped prepare our kids for middle school. It wasn't easy but dumped most of my insecurities about Tyler and him fitting into middle school. Afterall, it was just another chapter in our adventures of Sockpants and Super Heroes.
Holly Lytle is the mother of three and is the founder of The ISAAC Foundation, a local non-profit organization. In her free time Holly enjoys chronicling her many adventures of motherhood for this column.
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