"And tell your Mommy not to cry, OK?"
And so ends the early morning conversation my mom had with Frances before her first day of middle school. Then Frances looked at me and promptly asked, "Mommy? Why are you crying?"
My sassy response was "because I never do anything my Mommy tells me to either" which, thankfully got a bit of a smile out of her.
Frances has been worried about middle school since the end of last year. Anytime someone has asked her if she's ready for middle school, she's said "no." She didn't eat breakfast on the first day of school. I made sausage and eggs and even let them have orange juice! Her stomach just wasn't settled enough to eat much of anything. Plus she was up MUCH earlier than she's used to. She is NOT a morning girl!
The truth is, I've been worried about middle school a lot too. The first unsettled feeling came when her fourth grade teacher mentioned middle school at Back to School Night. We had barely started 4th grade and now I was worried about 5th!
At the end of last year, we stopped at McDonald's for a snack. As he usually does when driving that road, Benjamin shouted out, "Look Bubby and Sissy! There's your school!" And then Frances said, "Nope, Ben. That's not my school anymore." I cried then too.
The teachers did a good job all year of getting the kids ready for middle school. The guidance counselors talked to them about various topics, explained how lockers worked, and reassured them that they wouldn't get lost in the new school 3 times as large as their previous one.
The problem is that none of these things have addressed my worries! Do I still take cupcakes to her on her birthday or will that make her a square. Or will her mother using outdated language like "square" be sufficient? When she turns eleven will she want a shirt that has her age on it or will she have outgrown that particular tradition? Will she make new friends? Will she make good friends? Will she be a good friend?
Worrying is nothing new to me as a parent. I'm pretty much an expert by now. But something about middle school seems to have thrown me off. Is she still my little girl? Will she outgrow me? Literally, I hope she will. No mother would willingly curse her child to be only five feet tall. Figuratively, I'm not ready for her to outgrown me. I want to be the best mom that I can be and still have her like me (most of the time).
When I was 10 my family moved from Texas to Virginia and I started all over at a brand new school. I remember feeling scared and lonely and left out. But I did make friends. I found a place in that school and in that community. I learned new things academically that year as well as socially and emotionally. It was a year of great growth (except not literal, obviously) for me.
I hope that this year for Frances will be much the same: full of book learning as well as life learning. I hope she grows and changes, but still stays my same little girl. Is that possible?
And the boys? They'll be fine! Henry is excited for second grade this year. He's in a familiar place, even if Frances isn't there with him.
And Ben's happy as long as I stop trying to take his picture. He'd also prefer that I not make him eat weird food!
P.S. The cupcake question is a real one! Will I totally ruin her if I go eat lunch with her??