We walked into Clarke N. Johnsen Junior High School and were greeted by the smell of floor wax and a gaggle of 8th-grade student body officers who directed us to Ground Zero -- a.k.a. the cafeteria. We proceeded through several workstations and plowed through about 300 pages of forms and instructions... seriously, there wasn't this much paperwork when we adopted Tyler, for crying out loud! One hour and $142 later (yes, that was one hundred forty-two dollars in fees for a public secondary education), we were cut loose to check out the school and find Tyler's classes.
And oh, you guys, how the memories flowed.
My first miserable memory of 7th grade happened even before the first day of school. When I received my schedule in the mail, I was horrified to find that my last name was misspelled. That's probably not a big deal if your last name is Larsen or Connors; but when your last name is DIRK, you run the risk of having your name bastardized simply by changing one letter -- ANY letter. For example:
The D can become a J and make JERK (phonetically)
The I can become an O and make DORK
The K can become a T and make DIRT
On my 7th grade schedule --and on every one of my teachers' rolls -- the worst of all possible typos occurred, and I was Kareen DICK. Oh yes indeed, true story.
As you can imagine, this required some damage control on the first day of school. I scurried up to every teacher and MADE SURE they corrected the error before calling roll. Crisis averted... but you gotta admit, that wasn't exactly a good omen. (Needless to say, Ty's name is spelled correctly on all his school records, thank you very much.)
Where was I? Oh yeah... walking the halls with Tyler...
As the images and feelings from that time in my life bubbled to the surface, suddenly I felt compelled to share all this advice with Tyler at that moment... and as it turns out, Dave had the same urge at the same moment.
"If your locker is nowhere near your first class, you might want to take your first period books home with you so you don't have to go all the way to your locker... "
"These two classes are in the same hallway, so be sure and bring books for both classes so you don't have to go back to your locker... "
"You've got only five minutes between classes, so you're really gonna have to hustle..."
Dave and I were like two jabbering monkeys (which is normal for me, but not for him), and it wasn't long before the only thing Ty was looking for was the EXIT THAT WOULD TAKE HIM FAR AWAY FROM HIS CRAZY YAMMERING PARENTS.
The advice we gave him that day had to do with logistics... but in my heart, I know that Tyler's navigation skills won't only be tested by hallways. He's going to have to find his way through hundreds of strangers, all with distinct personalities and raging hormones, and find his place among them.... and, a mom can only hope, a happy place among them. Not an easy task... and, when you think about it, not all that different from what we find ourselves doing in every stage of our lives.
So, ya know. Kind of a big deal.
That's why, sometime before next Friday (first day of school), I'll share with Tyler the really important stuff he needs to know. It will be short and concise because, if it isn't, his condition flares up -- the one where his eyes roll back in his head if I speak longer than 15 seconds. (A terrible affliction... one that can get you grounded in our house if it's accompanied by backtalking.)
Anyway, here's what I think is the must-know info:
- PAY ATTENTION. The faster you learn the ropes, the more comfortable you'll be.
- BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF. You're not going to have it all down in one day. Give yourself some time to adjust and remember, everyone else is trying to do the same.
- STAY CLOSE TO YOUR FRIENDS. Stick together no matter what, hang onto each other for dear life... you'll need them more than you've ever needed them before.
- STEER CLEAR OF BULLIES. Stating the obvious here; but I will emphatically add that anything they say to you or about you is garbage, so NEVER EVER give them the satisfaction of believing them.
- BE NICE TO EVERYONE. Lots of reasons for this one and this post is already ridiculously verbose, so I won't list them here...
- REMEMBER HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU. Also obvious; but at this age, and no matter how many times those eyes roll back in his head, I don't think he can hear it enough.
For all the misery that can be found in 7th grade, there's a grundle of great memories to be made, too. I have a whole pile of them myself and, yes, they're a little dusty... but I wouldn't trade that pile for anything.
Go and rock the 7th grade, Ty. I know you'll be great. And when it's not great, I'm here.