The summer between sixth and seventh grade, one of my mom's best friends from high school moved out from California with her husband and daughter back to Ohio. They stayed with us until they found a house to buy. Turns out they bought the house right next door to ours. My mom's friend's name was Robin, too. That gets confusing sometimes in the storytelling. Or not. Robin and my mom are nothing alike. It was probably why they were such good friends in high school. Robin knew stuff. My mom didn't know stuff. Knowing stuff is good. It's good to know people who know stuff. What I am saying here is that Robin was street smart and my mom wasn't, isn't and never will be. I take after mom. That is a good and bad thing.
I trust people. You can lie to me over and over again and I believe you. It takes about ten times of me catching you in bald faces lies before I start to get that YOU ARE A LIAR. Seriously. Robin can listen to you lie the first time and her bullshit button goes off. I'm all ready to buy that story and she'll pull me to the side and say, "That person is lying. That is bullshit." She was always right. It's too bad I couldn't take her on all my first dates. But that would have meant a lot of traveling for her and it probably would have been a bit uncomfortable, but I would have saved myself a WHOLE BUNCH OF HEARTACHE. Moving on...
Anyway, seventh grade was awful. I have already covered junior high school and how sucky it was ad nauseum. Robin made it better. I spent a lot of time (and I mean A LOT) in her living room bemoaning whatever dire situation was going down at school. She would get the play by play and then I would wait for the what do I do to fix this? I don't remember specifics because this was a day to day ritual. It was that bad. I have no doubt that she probably told me to stand up to the girl who was bullying me and I told her, "No way Jose." Well, then it became duck and cover. Of course, the coward does die a thousand deaths and the brave man only once. This is true. Although she was a mean bitch and might very well have killed me outright. But, my pain would have ended. I am not joking. Well, sorta joking. I do know that Robin made the pain of junior high more bearable. Even if she didn't actually fix anything, she sat and listened to all of it. It takes a strong person to listen to the same old crap day after day and not just slap the kid sitting there crying about their terrible life. But, she did it. And I never got slapped once. I have to hand it to her. That was pretty awesome. And she fixed what she could. She did give me some pretty stellar advice. I am saving that up for future blogs.
I spent some time thinking about why I didn't take this junior high stuff to my mother. My mom and I have become very good friends as adults and I would say that she has been my best friend for a long time now. She is the person that I call first for good and bad news. Then, I remembered my first bad incident in junior high, and how I took it to mom. She didn't take it well. She looked like she was ready to make an appointment with the principal of the school, call in that girl and her mother and scratch off both of their faces. Egads. And she had no advice whatsoever. Like I said, mom wasn't street smart at all. I went to see Robin. I had two problems. What do I about my situation at school and at home? My mom is ready to scrape the faces off of two people she doesn't know and I still have this girl at school giving me grief. Robin said my mom would cool down and her nails weren't sharp enough for that (or something like that). She was right. The girl at school... well she was an ongoing issue. But, I stopped telling mom about stuff at school.
When my ex's kids came to live with us, I got a taste of how that felt. C-Man did fine socially at school. But H-girl, who was a year younger had a tougher time making friends. She was shy and just didn't feel confident about approaching other kids and talking to them. Pre-K and Kindergarten were hard on us both. I really thought that by kindergarten in the same school she would have made some friends. In kindergarten, H-girl was getting in trouble for talking during class. When the note from teacher came home, our conversation went something like this:
Me: What is this about?
Her: I am only talking because I am trying to get someone to play with me at recess.
Me: Why don't you ask someone at recess?
Her: Because they already have picked people to play with by then and no one will play with me.
Me: (about to cry) Why don't you ask to join in?
Her: I've tried and they won't let me play with them.
Me: ( really close to crying and feeling the migraine start to pound) So what do you do?
Her: I just sit on the bench and cry.
Me: (ready to call the principal and set up an appt with parents and kids for some face scraping) Why don't you talk to your teacher at recess (knowing this is lame as I'm saying it) and see if she can help.
Her: What is she going to do?
Me: (yeah that was lame alright) I'm so sorry. (rethinking appt with principal. Now ready to drive down at recess tomorrow ~ surprise ~ and kick a bunch of kids across the playground wearing the highest heels I have. Well that's maybe an inch and a half, but it will still hurt.)
An hour later, I decided that beating up a bunch of kindergarteners wasn't a good idea. Plus, I had a raging migraine and couldn't get out of bed, so I had to scrap that plan. But, I kept thinking this isn't supposed to be happening in kindergarten. Kids shouldn't have to go through this crap until middle school and junior high. And, seriously it sucks that they have to go through it then, but it seems to be this rite of passage that no one escapes. That thought is followed by the one that parents are completely unable to solve these problems. However, I did have a greater understanding for my mother's reaction to my story. She was too close to it. Happily, H-girl did integrate better as she got older and became less shy. In fact, she is now so social that her grades are not where they should be because she spends too much time talking. And it isn't because she's trying to arrange a playdate at recess. So, she has bounced back from this trauma more than successfully. However, she is about to go to middle school... God help us all.