Deep Thoughts,  School Today: Eraserboard Jungle,  Tiny Kingdom Exclusive

Hormones Fly In Junior High

Now that Finn has three weeks of Junior high under his belt and is no longer quite so mesmerized by the bountiful offerings of the lunchroom, he’s had time to make new friends and gauge how the adventure is affecting his old friends.  The stress and thrill of it all has already caused some friction.

The Tiny Kingdom has four elementary schools which run from kindergarten through grade six, and the junior high brings the students from all four schools together for grades seven through nine.  Our elementary school is the smallest of the four, and Finn says he has several classes in which he’s the only kid from his school.  He knows plenty of guys from playing sports, though, and seems to have made new friends quickly.

I sat Finn down for a frank talk before school started.  I felt like he’s mature enough to recognize the social maneuverings that inevitably go at this age, and  he’d be better equipped to deal with them if he was given a heads up about their existence.  He’s never lacked self-confidence, and I wanted him to be prepared to stand up for his friends if they were ostracized, and to defend himself if his self-worth was attacked.

I told him that when I was in junior high, I saw people change.  Some people decided that sports were the only thing that mattered.  Others sought popularity at all costs.  People who had been friends for years split up because one decided the other wasn’t athletic enough, pretty enough, or cool enough.  Others drifted apart because they matured at different rates, their interests changed, or they found they had different values.

I even got down to the nitty-gritty and talked about girls and the way they can act at this age.  I felt qualified to give this talk because I have a vagina and survived junior high. ( You know, there’s a reason we all loved The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink and those other movies that showed the cliques that form and the cruelty kids can inflict on one another.  It’s because they’re true.)

I told him that he might see girls dropping friends in order to join a “more popular” group.  He might see a couple of girls accorded special power, just because of their perceived status.  What was important for him to remember was to be there for his friends, especially the girls, because they’re in for a rough few years.

We talked about first impressions being important.  Teachers and peers form opinions of you quickly, and once formed, they’re hard to change.  On the other hand, you should try not to make the same mistake.  Don’t judge someone as a loser because he or she looks different.

It’s a difficult assignment – we make snap judgments about people all the time.  As an example, I reminded him of my irrational prejudice against double first names, which are extremely common in the South.  My first reaction is to conclude that the parents are either indecisive or snooty.  I have absolutely no evidence to back up either of these determinations, and I must often remind myself that in fact I have many close friends whose kids have two first names. They are just as entitled to believe that mothers who name their children after Scandinavian countries are ditzy, to say the least.  See?  We’re all different.  Our quirks plus a Coke make the world go round.

Bill overheard part of our conversation and thought it was unnecessary. Neither his parents nor mine ever had such a discussion with us.  But when I look at Finn, I see a whole lot of me, and I would have appreciated a warning about what lay ahead.

We had our talk about a month ago.  I’ve already heard through the grapevine that there are girls jostling for position, turning their backs on friends they’ve had since first grade, in order to be accepted by the “in” group.  Social climbing never stops, and I surely can’t prevent it.  I can only hope that Finn can see the bigger picture and be there for his friends, no matter how many first names they have.

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I have a post up at Deep South Moms.  Check it out!

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Three years ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Not A Normal Day

25 Comments

  • Email From The Embassy

    I, for one, am impressed that you had this talk. My oldest is only in 3rd grade, but I’ll be needing to have such a talk soon enough, I imagine. May I borrow your notes?

    I’m enjoying your blog, though I don’t remember how I found you. I’ve just been lurking, until today.

    Email From The Embassy’s last blog post..It’s Been Awhile

  • jackie

    Hats off to you! I agree with you–the talk would have been nice and I will now follow your parental example (when the age/time arises)–Just like I will with bodily cleanliness and the s-x talk–ahh, you are wise beyond your years—which is saying alot–because like me, you were extrememly young when you had kids and are now only a youthful 28.

    jackie’s last blog post..I am a copy cat

  • Kaye

    I think it was great that you had this talk with Finn. Maybe he needed it, maybe not, but you felt it was your responsibility to do it and way to go for going through with it.

    I don’t look forward to this age with our son, but it will come and I can just hope and pray that we nudge him in the right directions so that as he matures he can make wise decisions on his own. I think this is a huge part of what you were doing here and I applaud you for it. Whether he appreciates it now or not, he will one day.

    Great job, Mom.

    Kaye’s last blog post..Cheap Living for Broke College Students – Part 3

  • MamaD4

    I don’t have teenagers (yet), but I would have appreciated that sort of discussion from my parents. Better to have gone through it and squirmed a little than to have not done it and regretted it later.

    I’m getting more and more frightened to leave the preschool years…hopefully those of us with small boys will be able to come back and reference these posts on My Tiny Kingdom!

    Tschuss from Germany!

    MamaD4’s last blog post..Introducing the Super Horses!

  • rhonda

    I want to second the others, I think it was very wise to have this talk. I have two girls,4 and 6, and them going to junior high absolutely scares the life out of me….a mom friend and I were talking about it just this weekend…seriously, can I have your notes???

  • Jerri Ann

    Keeping with the deep south theme, my name is Jerri Ann and my uncle was Big Jerry with his son being little Jerry and we lived less than 100 yards apart. I think that’s probably how I came to be Jerri Ann instead of just Jerri was every Jerri/Jerry had to have something to go with it…Big, Little and Ann….

    And, the joys or not of junior high? I tell you, those were some difficult years.

    Jerri Ann’s last blog post..The White Trash Mom’s Handbook

  • Erin

    I think a warning is the least we can give our kids. They face so much growing up. Some things will always be the same, no matter how the times change. I think Junior High will always be a difficult time. Who wouldn’t rather take it on with a little insight under their belt?

  • momumo

    I have had a similar discussion with my kids — tailoring it to each kid. It did not pay off right away with my son, he was an ass for awhile, but he came back around full circle and is now in the group that ostracizes anyone who doesn’t attempt to make the “sevie’s” feel welcome the first few weeks of school – they aren’t allowed to eat lunch with the rest if they don’t greet and even invite the sevies to join them. This is at a 7-12 school, and my son is in 11th grade this year.

    My girls caught on much more quickly — funny how that whole jr. high crap can’t be avoided.

    momumo’s last blog post..I drink alone

  • Michelle@Life with Three

    I’m glad you blogged about this. I think you did the right thing in sitting down and talking about it. I would have appreciated the warning too, because Junior High stunk. My oldest is just five, but I’m going to file this away in the memory banks so that I’ll sit down and give her a warning beforehand, too!

    Michelle@Life with Three’s last blog post..Some New Family Favorites

  • Sandie

    My oldest son is now a junior in high school and I have to say that all of the drama I remembered so well from junior high never seemed to affect the guys as it did the girls. Boys just don’t have the same social status/popularity/stab your friend in the back mentality that girls do/did.

    You might be surprised how easy Jr. High is for a boy!

  • andrea

    As my friend Todd put it when we were in high school, watching his brother live through junior high (and this younger brother was popular, and therefore spared a lot of the suffering): “All sixth grade girls are bitches.”

    Good for you for inspiring Finn to be the Defender of the Downtrodden. Everyone will still be in love with him 25 years from now because of it.

  • Ginny

    I think it is great that you had that talk. My daughter has 1 week in at middle school & already know I am in for a long ride! We do middle school in 6th grade here. I was watching her walk on Thursday at the school open house & realized she was acting like I did in HIGH SCHOOL, ugh!

    My daughter is very social & I hope she handles all the popularity issues well. We will see though.

    Oh & wanted to come back & tell you … When she got home on the first day, she said “Guess what they have Vitamin water at lunch!” I thought of you, lol.

    Ginny’s last blog post..Unique Skins ~ Review + Giveaway

  • alala

    Yeah, I could’ve used some kind of warning about the horrors of junior high too, way back when. Of course, now that I have a junior high schooler, I have no idea what to tell him, because we’re in Germany and all kinds of things are different here. Aaaand next year we’ll be in the Netherlands, he’ll have all new adjustments to make, and I won’t be able to help him with those either.

    alala’s last blog post..By: this and that « alala

  • Katrina

    You are simply one of the most brilliant moms I know. I am bookmarking this conversation for later use. I, too, wish I’d been given a heads-up before I hit the crazy stage. Mostly, I wish someone had told me to just hang in there, that it doesn’t last forever.

    Katrina’s last blog post..Cute Kids

  • Amy in StL

    Oh and if you move to The South with one name; you might be Christened with a second. Apparently Amy is too short to say – I was called Amy Sue by most friends. And no, Sue isn’t my middle name.

  • Lorie

    Great post!!! I have a seventh grader and we have had a similar talk. I believe they do benefit from such a talk b/c I think they need to begin seeing the “big picture.” It has helped my son see the forest for the trees – at least most of the time, and that it takes all kinds of folks to make a world, and that if he gives some kids a chance they might become lasting friends. He has found his niche in band and loves the friends that go with that. I am thankful. Now I can hope my words will help my younger son too. I had to have a scaled-down similar talk with him earlier b/c of the girls who were already jockeying for position in THIRD grade, of all things. The more things change, the more some things stay the same! Middle school is tough.

  • Cassie

    Kudos to you for the talk. I wish someone had give it to me. I had 2 of my childhood best friends drop me in junior high, because they were a year ahead of me. Now one wouldn’t acknowledge me for anything, the other would do anything for me now. But those years are difficult.

    We have a similiar school system like you have. Our school unites for 6th and 7th only. Oye! Only two years before I face it!

  • Leann I Am

    What a great talk to have with him! My 12YO just started the seventh grade and she’s starting to mention those same things. We have lots of little talks about the same thing. I think it’s easier because she’s a girl and I want her to have a ‘heads up’ for what could happen.

    It’s a jungle out there. And it just gets easier to get lost as the jungle grows around them. And you gave him a map. That’s awesome.

    Leann I Am’s last blog post..And on the needles…because I must be a GLUTTON FOR PUNISHMENT!

  • Kathy

    How funny…my eldest and I have had several “middle school” talks lately. Had one just today about how choices you make now may be with you a while, etc. I pray daily for wisdom with him right now!

    I need to email you…his team has to make a Cooperstown decision ASAP and several are voting for going over to Southhaven instead. I don’t know what to think. Need advice!

  • Tiffany

    My two girls are just babies in preschool and I am already dreading the middle school years. I drive past the Tiny Kindom junior high almost every day to get to their preschool. Those are hard years and I remember them well. I think it is tougher as a girl too. Girls are so mean! I hope that I remember to have this talk with mine when the time comes.

    Tiffany’s last blog post..Fall Nail Colors