By now, you have sent your sixth grader off to middle school, and come to realize: the lives of you and your child have begun to diverge. Their friends are scattered among several schools. They go to and come home from school on their own. Communication from the school is directed towards them, not you. Things are happening, but on your end? Silence.
Perhaps you walked them the first day and watched them go in or maybe they set off on their own. Either way, by stepping into the building they’ve crossed a threshold, one that emphasizes their burgeoning independence. It’s like you’re in the rearview mirror.
Sending an 11 year old off to middle school is a lesson in humility. We must now prostrate ourselves before our children to get any sense of what their day must be like. We beg for scraps of information. Because really, aren’t you curious? By the end of elementary school we are used to, even a little burned out by, all the notices and graduation events.
But this? You are a bystander. You don’t even have good seats.
Here's my advice: If you want to find out what's going on, you have to make friends. I’m not saying go out and look for a best friend. You probably did that when your child was in pre-school or kindergarten. Then, it was a combination of being about your kid and about you. Now it’s all about information. It doesn’t matter if your kids even like each other or even know each other, having another parent to talk to about your child’s school makes all the difference.
The best way? Field trip. The parent friends I have made from my son’s middle school all have jobs, but like me they were curious. Seeing no other way to meet their children’s classmates, or see the teacher in action, they took a personal day from their jobs and traipsed to a
museum, botanical garden or wherever the class was going that day.
This may be your only opportunity to observe. If you can't take a day off of a work, then by all means go to curriculum night (the
earliest event where there will be other parents) and outstretch that hand like you’re running for office.
It’s easy to establish connections in that kind of situation. We all know we have limited time. We already have a ready-made subject! There isn’t any awkwardness; no one asks about your job or even if you have other kids. Think speed dating. Establish grade level and off you go! You plunge in, get email addresses and your network is established.
Then, between the bits and pieces, the collective monosyllabic descriptions from all of our kids, we get a picture of what it’s like on the “inside”.
You will be thankful for this information – some of it will worry you, but honestly, mostof it will make you feel connected and relieved.