Middle School Transitions

So, I’ve been obsessing, er, thinking a lot lately about my eldest son’s all-too-near-future foray into middle school. I’m worried about him. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of meeting Lucas, let me take a moment to describe my dear son.

Lucas is, well, he’s very much a product of his environment. Take one high-strung, work-her-ass-off, the-sky-is-always-falling lesbian, add a terminally laid-back, slacker, isn’t-that-falling-sky-a-gorgeous-shade-of-blue lesbian, throw in a couple of dysfunctional extended family members with addictive personalities, add a chubby blonde baby to the mix, and you get—Lucas!

Lucas is awesome. Really, he is an amazing kid and I adore him. But he is an enigma, of sorts. He is a math whiz, but struggles with reading and writing. He can remember the words to his entire choir repertoire (many of which are not in English), but can’t seem to remember to flush the toilet. Or change his underwear. Or bring home his homework. He gets nervous. Often. But not over the things you and I might get nervous about.

He is a sociable kid. He can stand up in front of a crowd of hundreds and sing beautifully without so much as hint of nervousness. But he freaks out if the bathroom sink drips. He struggles with anxiety. He doesn’t handle the unknown very well. He has to know what he should be doing at all times. He has to know how things will turn out. He has to know how every story ends. He has attention issues at times. He’s never been diagnosed with attention problems, but he tends to escape to his own thoughts a lot. He’s a thinker. He’s what used to be called a daydreamer.

In a less than two weeks, he will be thrown into a completely different world and I am worried. He has a good group of friends, so I am not so much worried about him being lonely. Or bullied. Or called names. That may happen, of course, but he has a core group of four good boys that he hangs out with. He’s not a loner.

No, I don’t harbor the “normal” parent middle school worries. My worries are irrational. Ridiculous, even.

I worry that he will be unable to remember his locker combination and will start crying in the hallway—a turn of events that would mortify him.

I worry that he won’t remember how to get from one classroom to the next without a kindergarten-style walk-with-your-finger-on-the-wall line of classmates.

I am afraid that the clothes I pick out for him (because he does not care

in the least about clothes and will put on whatever I hand him) will be a little too middle aged lesbian chic for 5th grade.

I am afraid he will start speaking in lingo I don’t know and that I won’t be able to find an appropriate translator.

I am afraid he will begin cursing and, being a less than stellar parent, I will laugh rather than react appropriately, thereby reinforcing a sailor’s mouth in my innocent little boy. And we all know that “shit” and “damn” are gateway words. Before long, my baby boy will be casually spouting the BIG ONES, and it’ll all be my fault because I reacted poorly in middle school.

I am afraid he will not fit into any of the typical middle school cliques. He’s not truly a “geek/nerd” because he is a pretty dang social kid. He’s not really a “brainiac” because, while he is amazing at math, he can’t write a coherent sentence to save his life. He is in no way whatsoever a “jock.” He has neither the interest nor the ability to be athletic. He’s not really “preppy,” as he does not own a single piece of clothing manufactured by Hollister or Abercrombie (we are Old Navy people up in here). He’s never been your typical rough-and-tumble boy. He’s just a regular kid. A good kid. I am hoping there is a group for that.

I am afraid that his friends will find out that 1.) He cannot tie his shoes (seriously…he wears slip-on shoes all the time and has refused to learn to tie his shoes—though his six-year-old sister can tie hers), 2.) He still cannot ride a bike (and has no desire to learn, in part due to his anxiety), and 3.) He still sleeps with the stuffed “doggie” he’s had since birth.

I worry that his homework is going to be beyond me. Fourth grade math was already pretty advanced for my tastes.

I worry that he will stop climbing in bed with his mommas on the weekends. I love that time with him.

I worry that girls will like him. He’s a handsome boy with gorgeous blue eyes and big dimples. He’s smart. Sociable. Kind. Gentle. He’s everything an eleven-year-old girl wants in a steady “boyfriend,” right? I am SO not ready for unworthy little hair-flipping, giggling, make-up-wearing wenches hanging on my son. See…there you go. Proof positive that I am not going to be good at this.

I’m afraid he’ll get lost in the shuffle. An average kid amongst average kids. How will anyone know what an extraordinary child he is?

Transitions are difficult—particularly in parenting. In the end, we simply want the world to be kind to the little people we adore. We want them to recognize the amazing potential that exists behind those radiant blue eyes. We want them to understand what a beautifully crafted, brilliantly original child we created.

And we hope and pray that the world treats them as such.

The Sacred Maybe

Here at HerKentucky, many of us are in the midst of big transitions. Some of us are adjusting to new cities; others are adjusting to new school schedules for the kids. Erin was recently called to minister a new church in Kansas City. Here's a beautiful essay she wrote about parenting and faith in times of transition. As always, you can read more from Erin on her blog,


. -- HCW

I have a boy who is almost 3, but he’s been talking like 4 since he was 2. He didn’t get the memo that boys and/or second children do not develop vocabulary as quickly as their female/first child counter parts. I mean, boy likes to chat. At his two year check-up the nurse said, “does he know a) 5-10 words, b)10-20 words, or c) more than 20 words?” My husband and I kind of looked at each other and said, “um…why don’t you ask him?”

For all his articulate advancement, there are certain turns of phrase that he doesn’t quite understand. Kind of like that foreign exchange student you knew in high school who was a better writer and test-taker than you, but didn’t get nuance or figures of speech. “What do you mean, that’s cool? Would you like to borrow my sweater?”

Yeah, ambiguities really don’t fly with little boys. And maybe that’s not so much a development thing as it is a little boy thing…

“Are the cinnamon rolls ready yet?” “Almost.”

“Can we go to the park?” “Maybe later.”

“Can I watch a cartoon?” “We’ll see.”

In every instance, (especially those related to food), he just cannot accept the ‘maybe’ as my real answer. He doesn’t have a fit, and he doesn’t scream and yell. He just looks at me, perplexed, like I’m speaking some exotic foreign language, and then he asks me again. And again, and again, in his hyper-articulate little posture, until I deliver a clear “YES,” or “NO,” or “NOW.”

So you can imagine how the almost-3-year-old brain–even one with excellent language skills–struggles to process “we are moving. Later. Soon. Eventually.”

Every time we get a box packed up and moved into the garage, there is this little person standing there, asking earnestly, “NOW is it time to go to Kansincity?”  (For the record: “Kansincity,” in his mind, equals the hotel where we stayed on our short visit there. “Kansincity has an elevator!” he shares with all who will listen. “And a pool! And Fruit Loops!”)

Anyway…how do you explain 90 days/ 6 weeks/ 1 month to a small child? When words like ’soon,’ ‘later,’ and ‘eventually’ are terms from a parallel universe? The vagaries of time are mysterious enough to the supposed grown-ups. What is as small kid supposed to do with, “We will load up the moving van exactly 30(?) days from now, and then we will get in our car and drive for AWHILE, and then we will be ELSEWHERE and then we will live SOMEWHERE, and then… and then we will find the library and the grocery store.”

Luckily, his attention span is as short as his vocabulary is wide. He is easily distracted with toys, books, ice cream… Sure, he will ask me again later. But for now, I can hold him off and deal with my own discomfort brought on by those same words: ’soon,’ ‘maybe,’ and ‘somewhere.’ Even for supposed grown ups, those are hard words to live by.

And when you’re moving–not just house to house, but into a whole new life place–those words sometimes feel like the only words there are.  Everything in my life right now is a big fat ‘maybe, later, we’ll see.’

Truth is, we all hate ambiguity. We are programmed, culturally and maybe even biologically, to want ANSWERS. Preferably, now.  We cling to present comfort over future uncertainty, any day of the week. Some even cling to present misery over possible growth; because that possible future is unknown. Later. Maybe. Elsewhere.

When I think of all the opportunities I could have easily passed up because my present was comfortable–or because my misery was familiar–I get a little short of breath. I could have missed meeting my husband; I might have stayed in low-paying, soul sucking jobs my whole life long; I’d have missed seeing the world; I’d for darn sure never have been a pastor; or a mother, for that matter.

Whether by choice or by the nature of circumstance, we all find ourselves living, from time to time, with a certain degree of ambiguity. In seasons of transition and becoming, we can crash headlong into the first easy answer; or we can learn the spiritual discipline of living in the empty space. We can seek the sacred in the sea of change and trust that, like any good parent, God will be with us for the whole ride. And probably help find the grocery store.

We could live our whole lives small and scared. After all, what’s here and now is almost always easier than ‘maybe,’ ‘later,’ and ‘elsewhere.’ But my, how much we would miss. So many wonderful things–really, all the wonderful things–start as That Which Might Be. The college application; the unbaked bread; the pregnancy test; the blank page; the road to nowhere/anywhere/somewhere… Not a simple yes or no among them.

All this is to say; sorry, small man-child of mine. I don’t much like it either, but our lives right now are a mess of boxes, ‘maybe’s,’ and ‘eventually.’  But, eventually, we will find the grocery store, the library, your new bedroom, and probably, another doctor who will not believe how many words you know. You will shout ‘conquistador!’ at the top of your tiny lungs, and then you will recite the whole of Ephesians. But none of that is quite as important to me as how you answer the big questions later… the big questions that have no easy answer or discernible timeline. My great hope is that you will one day look that big, gaping ‘elsewhere’ in the eye, and count it as joy, and say “I don’t know,” and “we’ll see.” And it will be such good news.