Today I registered our two (almost) 12-year olds for middle school.
That's, like, practically high school.
I left the school and headed back to the office feeling very,... well... just weird. Navigating through registration was no big deal. Getting their bus schedule, gym clothes and yearbook photo taken didn't phase me in the least. It was after we got their books -- when we found their lockers and they began working the combination locks that it hit me.
I remember middle school. Clearly. Maybe not like it was yesterday, but at least within the last few weeks. Except we called it "junior high" way back then. I remember the day I stood at my first locker, spinning the numbers R-L-R and feeling like I'd won a Vegas jackpot when it actually opened. (I was worried that I wouldn't be able to open my locker, causing me to be perpetually late for classes and sent to the principal's office just because I couldn't operate a combination lock.) It was really hot that day, and I distinctly remember not being able to wear shorts (oh, kids these days have it SO nice!) so I had on a pair of jeans and a kelly green/white jersey shirt with my name on the back. (Yes, I am cringing at the very thought of this Fashion Don't, but in my defense, it was in style.) I remember glancing over at my locker neighbor -- a girl named Jill. She had honey-blonde hair, blue-grey eyes and braces. I remember silently rolling my eyes behind my dorky glasses, pushing my drab brown hair off my sweaty forehead and wondering if any of the boys who will undoubtedly be flocking around her would talk to me out of pity.
As I watched Charlie and Jack, I began to wonder how they will be perceived by their new classmates. Will they be liked? Will one of them do something really funny and win their affections? Will one of them inadvertently say something silly and make everyone wonder where in the world he came from? Will they fit in? Will any of the older kids try to screw with them? Almost exactly at that moment, Charlie interrupted my thoughts asking "What if someone tries to shove me in my locker?" Upon seeing him try to "see" if he'd even fit in there (they're really narrow lockers) I had that flash of protective mother instinct and worry. Yes! Yes! What if that happens? How will I protect him? How can I save him the embarrassment of being picked on? I took a deep breath and reassured him that he couldn't possibly fit inside the locker (I hope) and nothing like that will happen (fingers crossed). I realized then and there that it's officially time to let go a little. I cannot possibly be there for them every day. And I'm sure they will be just fine -- dealing with the natural element of craziness called adolescence.
I lived through it to tell about it. And so will they.