Two of my kids–both boys, and both, in my opinion, are some of the finest boys on the planet–are navigating the choppy waters of middle school.
Normally I don’t blog about them. They’re getting older, and sometimes their friends–or their friend’s parents, or their teachers–read my blog, and it feels like a little invasion of privacy for their mom to talk candidly about their lives as young men. So I usually stick to my littlest’s stories, and occasionally her older sister.
But middle school, man. It’s a tough gig.
My boys are artistic. They’re clever. They’re kind. They’re sarcastic. They’re loyal. They’re hardworking. They’re musical. They’re hilarious.
And oh my God, they’re the target of mean girls. Not just mean girls, but mean middle school girls. Let’s all have a moment of silence about that. Because mean middle school girls are the worst.
On the drive home from the bus stop, each kid has to tell me three good things about their day before anything else. After we’ve relived the positive, we move on to the tougher spots of the last ten hours. My oldest often says things like Nothing worth mentioning, Mom. Just the usual. He’s learning to let the shitty stuff roll off his back. I’m so proud of him–that’s super hard to do. It’s tougher for his younger brother. He’s just learning the art of ignoring haters, and he’s a little more sensitive, so it’s a struggle.
One particular drive home he was describing the recess scene to me, and it’s identical to almost every day prior. Mean girl seeks him out at recess. Mean girl proceeds to tear him down in a gross, underhanded and expertly played fashion. My boy is left wondering if maybe he really is stupid, and gross, and dumb for liking stuffed animals and Star Wars and for having angel kisses on his face.
And then David Bowie died. Thomas and I were talking about him at the kitchen table–about who he was a person, who he was as an artist. The boys were listening in, like they often do, taking in more than I give them credit for.
The next day in the car, the kids told me three positive things about their days, and then my son said,
“I thought about David Bowie a lot today. About how he was just who he was, and that he wasn’t afraid to be who God created him to be, even though so many people thought he was weird at first. And I thought about how because he was okay with being who God made him to be, and because he tried to be the best at just being himself, that he made a difference with his art.”
“That’s good stuff.” I said it softly, but inside I was bursting with pride.
“I want to be like that.”
“Me, too, kiddo.”
“I don’t want to wear make-up, though.”
“You don’t have to. That was his thing, sometimes. It doesn’t have to be yours.”
He turned and stared out the window at the passing cars and buildings and trees and telephone poles, disappearing into the thoughts inside his head. Still waters run deep.
TRUE STORY: Sometimes the mean girls help us see the David Bowie in ourselves.