Car Conversations

Middle school is an odd time.  I say odd because there isn’t really another adjective I can use to explain how weird my discussions with my middle school son, String Bean, have become.

And the car has become the place for these odd talks.

Long gone are the car discussions about the merits of Wendy’s nuggets over McDonald’s McNuggets.  Or the chats about the zillion unique Pokemon characters (Legendary ones versus morphed ones, etc.) and how important each one is to the game.  No.  These car conversations are now replaced by talks about social skills and, gulp, dating.

I should preface – String Bean is in 6th grade.  I still recall playing Barbies in 6th grade.  I don’t remember having a boyfriend or calling a boy’s house or being at all interested in the opposite sex.

Times they are a changin’.

This past car conversation proved very interesting.  String Bean and I had just left the community theater and I was running one of the middle school girls, who is in the musical with us, home.  She is in 8th grade.  String Bean is smitten with her and, basically, wouldn’t lend a word to the conversation.

So I led it and told her that String Bean and I were going to go home and try to catch an episode of The Family Guy. This is something he wasn’t allowed to watch until he hit middle school status, so we watch it together (mostly in case of any questions that may come up!)

She laughed and said that it was a funny show.

String Bean sat there and said nothing, but his body language said it all.  I had done the worst thing a parent can do: embarrassed him.

We chatted more, and finally arrived at her home.  I waited until she went inside before pulling out of the driveway.

The silent middle child sitting in the car became quite chatty.  He asked me how I talked to people so easily.  I told him practice.  I also told him the biggest secret of all: ask THEM about themselves.  It works like magic.

He took all of it in and seemed completely content by the time we reached our home.

About 10 minutes later, he got a text on his iPod from the 8th grade girl.  It said: “Turned on the TV and The Family Guy was on.  Thought of you two.”

Needless to say, String Bean didn’t stop grinning all night.

Growing too fast.

Growing too fast.

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The Big Game

Tonight is Big Game night.  High school football big rivalries team up against each other for the final fight of the regular season.  But that is not all that will “team” up; sometimes the towns team up against each other, too.

The Big GameFriday Night Lights takes on an entire new meaning in my neck of the woods.  I have really never seen anything like it until I moved to this area when I was a junior in high school.  I was completely overwhelmed how an entire high school could, basically, suspend all learning to be athletic supporters (pun intended).  By mid-week, all the hallways were elaborately decorated (students were in and out of classes to do so), students were dressed in daily themes (pajama day, hat day, hippie day – some kids took this one a little too far) and pretty much, the school itself was in a constant state of chaos that all led up to Friday’s end of the school day pep rally and The Big Game. This was my perception as a junior in high school.

Seeing the rivalry as an adult has taken on a whole other dimension for me – one that is almost worse than in my high school days.  At the start of September, before the school year is even in full swing, papers begin to trickle home. “Go Team, Beat the Other Team” t-shirt sales, stickers, information regarding The Big Game and spirit week and community pep rally events. And so it goes.  I have two dudes who both want the “latest and greatest limited edition” t-shirt design created specifically for The Big Game.  There are “all-calls” from the schools about the community bonfire, ticket sales and even spirit day themes.

There was also community outrage about the town’s trick or treat schedule because it conflicted with the scheduled community bonfire/pep rally. Many wrote letters to the editor.  Many complained about it on social media. Many are just plain crazy.

The rivalry may seem a little bit out of control.

This spring, some seniors from my town decided to paint the windows of their Big Game rival school with window paint – less than two weeks before graduation. Unbeknownst to them, the rival school had their windows treated with special UV decals to help keep the rooms cooler.  The window paint ruined the window treatments, costing thousands and thousands of dollars in damage.

Outrage and panic commenced from both towns.  Both communities were quickly playing judge and jury.  Both communities yelled about how horrible these seniors were.  Both communities made a frenzy out of the issue.  Both communities wanted these students to pay – with more than money.  Some of the common phrases heard around the area were: “These students have no respect,” “They should not be able to graduate,” “They should be arrested and have a criminal record,” “They are vandals,” “They should not walk at graduation,” and even as far as saying, “They must have horrible parents!”

Amazingly enough, no one said anything about how this zillion year old rivalry might have affected their judgment. And no one pointed out the fact that they have been raised on this rivalry, so of course they might make a bad decision based on the craziness of The Big Game.  No one mentioned that since the tender age of kindergarten, these students had been going to the community pep rallies and bonfires and dressing up for spirit week and buying the latest, limited-edition Big Game t-shirt.  No one mentioned any of this.  Instead, they wanted these students to miss graduation. Unreal.

Now, I don’t condone their behavior. I would be livid if it was my child, but I do think the issue is more than just a few seniors vandalizing property.  I firmly believe that the rivalry is so ingrained in them they can’t see the forest for the trees. The seniors mentioned above did get to graduate – and walk at graduation to the dismay of some. However, they lost out on some other rights of passage like Senior Day.  And respect.  They were required to perform many hours of community service and make restitution for the ruined windows.  Many people – in both towns – felt this was not enough.  They felt these seniors deserved the book thrown at them.

But, hey, enough about that.  After all, tonight is the big game.  These same community members will be heading to the stadium.  These same community members were a part of the record attendance at the community pep rallies.  These same community members stood in line for hours to buy their Big Game tickets.  These same community members participated in the annual adult party after the community pep rally.  They have purchased those limited-edition t-shirts. They have even trash-talked the rival team for weeks on Facebook (believe me, I have almost blocked people because of this). They are ready for The Big Game.  As they were last year and the year before – even the parents of those window-painting seniors.

IMG_4029So, what am I going to do as a parent to help my dudes put the rivalry in perspective?  I am going to start by skipping The Big Game tonight.  We are going to visit with friends and talk about other things.  We may even play board games, like Life, Sorry and The Game of Things – a big favorite around these parts.

I guess it will be The Big Game with us tonight, without the limited-edition t-shirts.  Monopoly, anyone?