Dogs Don’t Eat Pizza is “If I knew then what I know now. . .”
When I read this prompt I immediately thought of all the conversations I’ve been having with my daughter recently. She is in the last few months of 5th grade and her thoughts have drifted ahead to middle school. As you can imagine this is a subject that has prompted some fear and trepidation (for both of us!). She knows enough to realize that middle school can be rough sometimes, but doesn’t understand yet how she will navigate these tricky waters.
I have a lot of compassion for my daughter when she gets nervous and asks me repeated questions about the middle school years. I remember dreading that time myself in all its awkward drama myself. But the big advantage that I have over my daughter is that I know without a doubt that middle school can be survived. So, if I could go back and comfort my younger self as well as my daughter, this is what I would say:
Believe it or not, yes, you will eventually have a boyfriend.
I know your shy, quiet self wonders if any boy, let alone the one you are interested in will ever notice you. You watch your friends pair up and then listen to them giggle about getting their first kiss. You feel hopelessly geeky and alone. But one day, soon enough you will have a boyfriend. Several in fact. And then you will meet a boy so wonderful that you have to marry him. It all work out just fine. So relax a little about the boy thing, huh? There is plenty of time to worry about that. For now enjoy the friend friends you have all around you. Someday you will miss staying up all night and sharing your deepest secrets with good friends.
Speaking of boys, never dumb yourself down to win a boy’s affection.
I see you over there pretending like you don’t know the answer again when you are called on in math class. You worry that boys only like girls with boobs not brains. Since you have very little of the former you try to minimize the latter as much as you can. You hide your test grades under your folder as soon as the teacher passes them out not because you are ashamed your grades are too low, but because you are embarrassed they are so high. For everyone knows boys don’t like girls who ruin the class curve. Go ahead and pretend like you don’t know how to play pool so that cute boy will teach you how if you want to, but someday you will find a boy that loves you precisely because you can outsmart him. It is really the only kind of boy worth having anyway.
[caption id="attachment_956" align="aligncenter" width="560"]
the brown mop being tamed by barrettes the year before junior high.[/caption]
You will always have bad hair days, but eventually you get used to it.
I know you look at that wavy mop of brown mess on the top of your head and have no idea what to do with it. You experiment with mouse, curling irons, perms, no perms, and God forbid, hot rollers. Thankfully you chickened out on the sun-in fad. Even if you had tried that beloved 80s spray-in, you still would never have had the long, golden silky locks you wish for. My advice? Get over it. Embrace the brown wavy mop. You will still have plenty of days where your mess of hair makes you huff in frustration. But in college you discover pony tail holders (well scrunchies actually) and realize how little it matters. And the ironic thing is the girl with long, silken blonde locks probably sometimes wishes she had darker or curlier hair. If we can all just learn to love what we have we will be a lot happier. As Malcom X said, “Give your brain as much attention as you do your hair and you’ll be a thousand times better off.”
Learn now to stand up to a bully, for they never go away.
Teenagers say really mean things to each other during middle school. Things that make you want to go home, cry your eyes out, and hide until you are thirty. The best thing you can do is to learn now to look the bully in the eyes and make them blink. For the sad truth is that bullies last a lot longer than the years you are in school. You will find them at work, at church, and someday at your own kid’s school. Never try and pick a fight with a bully, but if a bully continues to lay into you, you must learn to stand so tall and strong that they back away.
So to my younger self and my growing daughter, the best advice I have on middle school in hindsight is that though sometimes it will be awkward and confusing and just hard, it will end. And you will move on. And you will be just find. So relax and be yourself as much as you can. Most people will see how wonderful that person really is. And the rest? They’ll someday be just a picture in a yearbook you try to remember.