My 11-year-old son is about a week and a half into middle school. He’s doing great – waking up with an alarm clock and jumping in the shower, handling the locker thing, changing classes. His teachers have been fantastic.
As for me? Well, the jury’s still out. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
The second week of getting up at 5:45 a.m. is not any easier than the first week. We basically go to bed after “Wheel of Fortune” and wake up in the middle of the night. Prime time is bedtime. I should get a job making biscuits or donuts. My opinion about this issue has been duly noted, according to my husband. This is my last week to complain.
We’ve had some interesting conversations so far. Eating cherries in the lunchroom, for example, and having to spit out the pits, is not cool. Which, when I think about it, makes sense.
There’s a lot of saucy new vocabulary being learned on the morning bus ride, although not so much in the afternoon, which is a little confusing. I’m guessing the kids are as disgruntled by the start time as I am.
Every other day or so I get a report: “People say the ‘S’ word and the ‘F’ word. A lot, ” my son tells me.
“At you?” I asked.
“No, just in general,” he said.
Recently, after the fourth or fifth day of these reports, I sighed and shrugged my shoulders. Anybody can cuss, I told him.
“There’s no lock on your mouth. But what comes out of your mouth reflects who you are and what kind of home you’re growing up in,” I said. “It’s just sad to hear a kid cussing, you know?”
“But you cuss,” he said.
This is true. I lob the occasional curse around, like last week when I hit the cart-wrangler at the big-box store. Not the actual cart-wrangling man, mind you, but the machine with the siren on it that herds the line of carts. How can you not cuss after doing that?
I cussed when my grocery bag broke and a can of Beefaroni hit me in the toe. I cussed when I opened the liftgate of my car and it whacked me in the head. At church. I know, not my finest moment.
How do you explain cussing? Can you? I had to give this one some thought. I wish I could say, “Just don’t ever cuss” or “Find a substitute word.” But clearly it’s not something I can live by. I have honestly never said, “Well, sugar!” or “Son of a biscuit!”
I finally settled on something like this: “There’s a big difference between cussing occasionally when something truly shocking or upsetting happens and using curse words in regular conversation. In one case you’re truly reacting and in the other, you’re just trying to be cool. And it’s really obvious. And it makes you look dumb, like you have nothing better to offer than bad words.”
OK, it didn’t come out that well, but that was the gist of it.
His response: “Huh.”
That’s all I got. So by now he could be throwing f-bombs all over school, I have no idea. Kids are exposed to a lot more in middle school than in elementary school. And even more in high school. Unless I want to home school, in which case he’d learn curse words at a much faster rate, this is the way it is.
We just went for an annual well-check, and the doctor asked him to fill out a survey with the questions “Do you carry a gun for safety?” and “Do you ever take drugs to feel better?”
Like it or not, this is the world we live in.
He’ll have choices, temptations and consequences his entire life. We might as well roll up our sleeves and get to work.