Wednesday, June 20, 2012


My middle child graduated from middle school yesterday. The ceremony was called "Out of the Middle" - fitting for him, especially, as he always feels in the middle.

First, the school band played "Achievement" while the 8th graders entered the courtyard. The 8th graders who are/were in the band (including my son, on bass) obviously didn't get to take part in the procession. They also played America the Beautiful, and the chorus sang the National Anthem.

The graduating students were a bright sea of color from this week's field day teams - the class chose to wear their team shirts, which they created themselves at field day. My dad was a little confused that none of the kids "dressed up" for the event, but they did, in a way.

Each department handed out awards to the students who stood out in those classes. My son didn't win any of those awards, but did receive a Presidential Award for Academic Excellence, for having straight As (nine A+'s, as he pointed out, more than once.)
Then the students were called by name to receive their "certificate of completion" and a "high school survival kit" that the 8th grade teachers put together.
All in all, it was a nice ceremony, and a pleasant morning. My parents took us all out afterward to a local lunch spot to celebrate.

So why did my son spend the rest of the day in a terrible funk? Even at lunch, I watched his enthusiasm fade until he couldn't even finish his food - french fries untouched on his plate! (Soo unlike my teenager, let me tell you!)

Transitions are hard. They're still hard for me now, at my age. I can remember back to being a teen and having big changes happen, like when my parents moved to Vermont to buy an Inn. Change is scary when you have no frame of reference.

My own 8th grade graduation was a "bigger deal" than this one - evening ceremony, long dresses for the girls, suits for the boys (well, that was a more formal time, I guess. And it was New Jersey.) I was going on to the local regional high school in the fall, with all my friends, but I still felt anxious all summer long in anticipation. I spent a lot of time taking stock of myself - how people perceived me and how I wanted to be perceived.  Who I wanted to be. I was ready for a change. I think he may be, too, but hasn't had time to think about it.

Transition and change are part of life. Things don't stay the same. And most of the time, we don't really want them to stay the same. Little transitions help us prepare for the bigger changes and challenges we'll face as we grow up.

This is why YA literature is filled with these kinds of changes - new kid in school, starting high school with new people, family moving to a new town, new state, new planet... reading about how others are also scared and how they deal with it and don't drop dead from fright helps our kids deal with their own fears, and their own scary transitions.

Although, sometimes in books, the changes are truly scary, like finding out there are vampires in your new school. Or that the new girl you have a crush on is really a mermaid...

Change is good. But it can be scary.

What graduation advice do you have for a kid just finishing middle school, headed off to a new high school in a different town where he won't know the kids in his class? What's your key to a smooth transition?


  1. from what i recall and have experienced with my boys--i would say, that high school will be easier in many ways than middle---happy summer to the graduate!

    1. Thanks, Lynn. He told me himself that he'll be ready for changes by the end of high school "because I'll be mature then, mom."


      He's already doing better, as he's been out doing things with his friends and has realized the end of school doesn't mean the end of friendships.

  2. This is a hard one, Katie. My own son--going into third grade--has to change schools next year. I try to remind him of the things that will stay the same to make it easier for him.

    Personally, I couldn't wait to get out of my middle school and into a new hs where I knew next to no one. But then, I hated my junior high and the people in it.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Susan. Good luck to your son with his transition, too. It's hard as a mom to watch them going through these complex emotions and not being able to "fix" it for them easily. They have to work through it, I guess.

      My daughter, on the other hand, can't wait to change schools. She's like you and doesn't like her classmates in the least, except for maybe a handful. Hope your experience worked out - she just asked me what to do if the people at her new school are just as bad as at this school - or worse.

      *sigh* a mom's job is never done.


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