My Son Started Middle School Today -- From Home, From This Desk -- And I Have All The Feels

by Karen Johnson
Originally Published: 
My Son Started Middle School Today -- From Home, From This Desk -- And I Have All The Feels
Courtesy of Karen Johnson

Six years ago I walked this tiny boy into kindergarten. My oldest child, my first round of real “goodbyes.” I came home after the teacher literally pushed me out of the classroom and closed the door, and sobbed.

Did I do a good job? Was he ready? How on earth was he going to make it all those hours without me? Surely he needed me for something. I stared at the clock. Time stood still. I was at school pickup 45 minutes early that first day eagerly staring at the dismissal door.

For the first few weeks of school that year, I invented ridiculous reasons to email his teacher, hoping for a glimpse into his world. Hoping for, frankly, a detailed report of what he was doing at that very minute and every minute before and after. As a seasoned teacher, she’d had plenty of first-timers like me and usually responded with a short email—maybe a sentence or two—and it crushed me, not being a part of every single thing happening around him anymore.

Well, somehow that little boy with wire-rimmed glasses and an adorable lisp and affinity for all things Harry Potter sailed through six years in five minutes, as kids heartbreakingly are known to do.

And now he’s nearly 12.

Tomorrow is a day I’ve thought about for a long time. Another first. I will now start learning how to be a middle school mom. This kid—my first pancake kid who always shows me the way and gives me grace as I mess up—is starting 6th grade.

From home. From this desk.

And he’s totally chill and ready, despite me buzzing around him, still trying to be over-involved.

“Can you log into all your Zoom links okay? Do you understand your schedule? Do you see how you now have a 3-minute break between classes to get up, stretch, pee, do you want me to help you make a lunch ahead of time…”

And, of course, I’m met with a “I got it, Mom. Really. I’m just gonna watch a video with my headphones on, k?”

And I slink away, knowing he really does “got it.”

The truth is, this is never in a million years how I expected my oldest child and I to jump into the middle school experience, but here we are.

6th grade. Old enough for me to say, “Dude, go take a shower” but young enough to still snuggle with Mom on movie night. Old enough to stay home alone now and then and download a game called Dead Cells, but young enough to still want to play board games & say prayers with me at night.

I’m not any more ready to watch him enter middle school as I was to watch him enter kindergarten. Again, is he ready? Did I do a good job preparing him? Does he know what to do when ___ happens or how to handle ____?

I probably won’t sob tomorrow like I did all those years ago, mostly because all my kids will be 10 feet from me all day long doing online school, but it will be an emotional day nonetheless.

Another chapter closing. A new one opening. A worried mom who, when she looks at her newly minted middle school son who’s nearly as tall as her, still sees that tiny boy and remembers that first goodbye all those years ago.

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