In a few months, my son is about to begin a new challenge in his life. A new school awaits him that will be filled with several hundred other sweaty, gangly, pimply, giggly and gawky 12- and 13-year-olds. As I opened the large packet of information from the new school that I secretly hoped contained acne cream samples, I asked my son, "How do you feel about going to junior high?" He answered in one word.
I remember my first day of junior high quite well because it was the first time someone had ever tried to beat me up (besides my sisters of course). Unfortunately, polyester was my middle name in those days and everyone else’s middle name was cotton. I was behind the times in so many ways which left me open for all the fun things that go along with puberty (whether we like it or not).
The bullying began on the bus on the way to school that first day. The bus was more crowded than one of those buses in Mexico where you have to ride with chickens and cows along a rocky road for several hundred miles. As a result, I had to stand up in the middle aisle and try to steady myself like a gymnast on a balance beam. Unfortunately, I was so uncoordinated as a young girl that I had never even been able to do a cartwheel. As the bus turned a corner, I was suddenly thrown off kilter (or off my imaginary balance beam in this case). In desperation, I grabbed the back of a girl’s seat and hung on for dear life. She turned to me and said in the meanest voice I’d ever heard (besides from my sisters of course), "GET YOUR HAND OFF MY SEAT." I would have liked to have removed my hand from her seat just then, but as luck would have it, I was frozen in fear.
Just then, the bus pulled in front of the school. I got off and began walking toward the looming building. Suddenly, my body was catapulted toward the front door a little faster than what I had planned on. That mean girl was behind me, pushing me and yelling, "WHAT’S YOUR PROBLEM, POLYESTER MAMA?" I ignored her and she continued to shove me for the entire 500-foot walk into school. "Welcome to your first day of junior high!" the principal greeted me zealously as my body was propelled into the entrance of Puberty Hell. The pushing stopped. I turned around and the mean girl was gone. I turned back to the principal. She smiled at me. "How was the bus ride?"
"Grrreeeeeat," I answered her.
On the second day of junior high, I accidentally sat on the biggest piece of bubble gum you’ve ever seen while I ate my lunch in the cafeteria and spent the rest of seventh and eighth grade trying to get that wad of bubble gum out of my polyester pants.
Needless to say, my first few days of junior high were exactly how my son so vividly and concisely described his feelings the other day. SCARY. But it’s important to remember that I survived, I became "sort of cool" by the end of eighth grade, and most importantly, I learned how to stick up for myself (except with my sisters, of course).
So, on my son’s first day of junior high, I’m going to dress him in all cotton, instruct him on how to remove gum from his pants, close my eyes, and push him through those front doors into the arms of a principal who, for some baffling reason, actually enjoys being in charge of Puberty Hell.
It’s all part of growing up.