The school year is rapidly drawing to a close, and I, for one, couldn't be happier. I'm not one of those parents who love summer vacation and the chance to bond 24/7 with my little darlings. In fact, when I signed my last son up for kindergarten, the school secretary asked me if I was sad, and I laughed hysterically and responded, "Are you kidding?! I've been waiting for this for years!" (The principal almost swallowed his own tongue laughing. I'm guessing that wasn't the socially-appropriate response.) Normally, the approach of summer vacation corresponds with an intense desire on my part to move to some remote village in the Himalayas--alone.
But this year is a little different. This summer vacation marks the end of Older Son's first year of middle school, and I'm just barely hanging on. For some reason, I foolishly expected parenting to get easier as my kids got older and I could do away with things like marathon midnight nursing sessions, mountains of dirty diapers, and screaming temper tantrums punctuated with repetitions of "NO! NO! NO!" because I callously threw away a used napkin that had become someone's best friend.
I didn't count on the insanity that is Middle School.
To say I wasn't looking forward to Older Son starting middle school would be a vast understatement. The middle school years ("junior high" when I was a kid) were the worst years of my life. There isn't enough money in the world to convince me to be 12 again. It's a horrible time of life for many reasons, but the crucible of middle school can turn even a relatively well-balanced kid into a raging maniac.
Older Son is not necessarily the most well-balanced kid in the world. Oh, don't get me wrong; he's a wonderful kid: funny, outgoing, interesting. But he's also smart. Really smart. He's what they call "highly and profoundly gifted." And he knows it, which can cause problems for him. He tends to think that, since he's so smart, no one else could possibly have a better idea than he does so he doesn't need to listen to anyone else. And he doesn't get why he has to prove that he knows how to do things--like how to work out math problems--when he's obviously got the right answers. And he's impatient. About everything. If it takes more than two minutes, he's not interested. All of which makes him that kid on the playground that other kids are itching to smack. And often that kid in the classroom that teachers are just itching to smack.
So when my kid started middle school, I watched him carefully. And for a while, everything seemed fine. He was happy to go to school, had a lot of friends, and brought home straight A's and glowing teacher comments on his first report card. I heaved a sigh of relief and decided maybe middle school's not as bad for boys as it is for girls. Or maybe things have changed since I was a kid. Or maybe his school is better at dealing with the whole pre-teen hormone-steeped culture shock. Or maybe I'm just an idiot.
The second report card came home and I was stunned. He got a B- in math, which was a shock, since he's always had A's in math, represented his school last year in the regional math field day, and was bumped up a grade level in math when he started middle school based on his test scores and his teacher's recommendation. Many parent-child-teacher discussions ensued. The end result was weekly math tutorial sessions at school, daily tutoring and homework sessions from Mom (we'll just gloss right over the irony of that, considering my checkered history with math--at least I'm finally understanding pre-algebra), and a new-found relationship with his math teacher. He's now getting an A- in math.
Now, granted, a B- isn't the end of the world. So how about that D he got in band, of all things? He loves band. And he's good at it. He was in the elementary school district honor band, and a soloist in the elementary school jazz band. How the heck did he get a D in band?! Many more parent-child-teacher discussions ensued. Hmm...could be all those practice sheets that he diligently filled out every day and had me sign every week...and then didn't turn in. Or maybe it was that final he never bothered to take. Or maybe, just maybe, it was the fact that his saxophone was so damaged--who knows how?--that when he finally told me it was damaged and I took it to the shop, the repair guy informed me he didn't know how the kid had even gotten a sound out of it. $130 dollars and a re-test later, his grade is up to a B+, with a potential A in sight.
So when the mid-term progress reports came out, I wasn't too worried. What could go wrong? Ha. Can you say D in Science?! This is more astounding than math and band put together. Science is his Great Love. When he was three, I gave him a CD player to take apart, and he promptly built a "satelite transceiver." It didn't work, of course, but he explained to me exactly how it was supposed to work. When he was four, he announced he was going to Cal Tech to become an inventor, and I never doubted it for a moment. At six, he calculated the rotation of the earth by sticking a pencil in a block of styrofoam to make a sundial, and then watching as the shadow moved across a protractor for half an hour. ("Hey, Mom, did you know the earth rotates 15 degrees an hour? The shadow moved seven and a half degrees in half and hour, so that means 15 degrees in an hour, right?") When he was seven, he wanted to fly a kite, and I told him it wasn't windy enough. He asked me how windy it needs to be to fly a kite. I told him I didn't know. The next day, he announced he had figured out how to measure relative wind speed by hooking a propellor up to a dynamo and the dynamo to a multimeter. The voltage reading on the multimeter would correspond to the wind speed.
So, yeah, that D in Science was a stunner. As you may have guessed, it called for yet more parent-child-teacher discussions. One week, several extra credit assignments, and a major project on volcanoes later, he is up to a B+ and heading for A territory.
That was Thursday.
Friday morning he handed us two detention slips. It seems he got an F on a Language Arts test. (Do I even need to mention this kid was reading at college level in third grade? That I have to buy him new books every week to keep up with his reading habit, because the school library doesn't carry anything at his reading level and we've exhausted the resources of the public library?) He then failed to get the test signed, so he got detention. He got the detention slip signed, but lost it. So he got another detention. And forgot to get the slip signed. So he got a third detention. Plus the F. Sigh.
School ends on June 11th. I'm counting the days.
I think I need a new career path. The luster is wearing a bit thin on this "Mom" gig.