Parenting is tricky.
You go through nine months of pregnancy (no fun) and then hours of labor (even less fun) and then a brand new person appears. Like all new moms, I did not know what to expect the first time. But when my gaze met his, I fell in love. It woke something up in me that I didn't know was there.
The preschool years are endearing. Exciting. Exhausting. And I have heard the elementary school years tagged the "golden years" of parenting. I would have to agree with that. They like you and you like them, for the most part.
Then comes middle school. Attention everyone: aliens ahead. They transform, they morph, they alter into something you don't recognize.
Just so you'll know, I have been granted permission to talk about my first born, Robert, aka Tiger. He was a little red-headed, freckle faced straight A student. Then came middle school. For whatever reason, grades dropped, self esteem dropped, confidence dropped. So I dropped--everything. At Captain Fun's suggestion, I started home schooling. The Captain and I both agreed he needed to get out of the muck of the middle school atmosphere. Tiger was willing, I was willing. We gave it a try.
The first year was actually fun. For someone who vowed she would never home school, I really liked it. Tiger was a natural at academics, and I found him to be an enthusiastic student who liked to learn.
He was fascinated by the weather, the solar system, everything. He built a trebuchet out of Popsicle sticks. (I thought every 12 year old did that.) The questions he asked amazed me. "What if we could put lasers in each corner of the yard and then press a button and get all the grass cut in 1.2 seconds?" he piped up one day after cutting the grass. Brilliant, I thought. As long as the dog wasn't in the yard, his dad added.
Then came 7th grade where those aliens again took him away. One day, I gave him a writing assignment (my favorite subject). He handed it in--with one sentence at the top and a squiggly line down the middle of the paper.
"Ahem, Tiger," I said. "If you keep this up, you're going back to school."
Fast forward to the first day of eighth grade. "I didn't think you would send me back to school," he said as I was driving him to school.
"You have to be educated one way or another," I said. We had tried one way, now it was time for another.
His freshman year of high school was hard. Academics were average; he was shy and unsure of himself. He seemed timid about everything from going swimming to riding roller coasters. What's more, he told me he ate lunch alone every day for almost the whole year. Sometimes I worried about him until my stomach ached. When did my outgoing, carefree kid get become so shy and self conscious? I felt I had failed him.
Playing football his sophomore year brought new friends, and his junior year was even better. His senior year, a new opportunity came and we began planning a move to Vermont. He was okay with it as all his friends were older and were graduating anyway. His dad was confident he would be fine. But me? I was nervous. He was over the hump and I was unsure how a move during his senior year would go.
But for him, the move was seamless. Dozens of friends filled our yard on the weekends for bonfires. And he met his future wife in English class, to boot. To this day, he never meets a stranger. As for timidity, during his time in the Navy, he took a Somali pirate into custody and got a commendation from his Admiral. And now, the kid who was afraid of roller coasters is flying airplanes.
"Is it okay if I say you were shy?" I texted him while writing this post.
"I was the weirdest kid I have ever met," he wrote back (which got him a LOL). "You can say whatever you want."
Middle school is tricky. You go through a few years of unmarked territory, face unforeseen fears. You worry. You pray. You don't recognize them for a while. But don't give up. Keep at it. It may take a time, but eventually a brand new person will appear.
Just ask my high flying Tiger.