My eldest daughter began 8th grade this week and I am already overwhelmed with the possibilities and realities that this year holds. In middle school, 8th graders are the coolest and the most respected kids on campus. They relish and take full advantage of all privileges bestowed upon them as 8th graders. Naturally, I am perfectly prepared to over-stress about her grades because I want her to get into a top-tier high school - but I am not at all prepared for the other "stuff" that comes with being in the 8th grade.
My daughter is only 12 (soon to be 13) in the 8th grade, but she looks and acts like her older classmates and friends. I can't help her with her homework anymore. We both know that I'm not smarter than an 8th grader. So what is the other stuff? It's the boy stuff; it's the wearing of eyeliner and mascara; it's the parties and "hanging out". OMG - I'm going to die.
I love that my daughter speaks openly to me about "cute boys", Stars with killer abs, and "hot" booktubers. I know she "shares" partly to gauge my reaction, but mainly to passively, yet aggressively, let me know that boys are interested in her and she is interested in them. As I listen, I'm dying inside because I never thought I would be that "share anything with me mom" although I've pretended to be her all of their lives.
In the 7th grade it was easy for me. No dating! No boys calling the house! (I've just aged myself. Boys don't call "the house" anymore, just the girl's cellphone.) No movies with "friends" if boys were part of the friends! No hanging at the Grove, unchaperoned on Saturday afternoons with a group of "friends" for lunch! In 7th grade, when it came to boys - the answer was "No". In my mind it was - "HELL to the NO!"
Now, for whatever reason, I feel that 8th grade is the year when my "no" should turn to, "maybe", "I'll think about it" or even "yes." Without putting much thought into it until now, I remember that my parents allowed me to go to a 9th grade prom when I was only in the 7th grade. I was a good girl - but were they nuts? In fairness to my parents, "times" were different then, and kids are much more exposed now than I was in the 7th grade. PLUS, I triple-dated with two cousins, who also went with 9th grade boys . Still, if my daughter, as a 7th grader, asked this of me last year, the answer would have been, "No. Absolutely not!"
As a single parent, with no co-parenting assistance, all the decisions are mine. Consequently, it's hard to play "good cop/bad cop" by myself. I often feel like Jekyll and Hyde when answering my 8th grader's simple social engagement requests.
My 8th grader asked: "After school, may I go with 'Susie' to walk around the Marketfair and meet some friends?" Inside, I'm screaming, "No. No. No." - but ultimately, I say, "Yes". Then, I hand over the cash and lay down my restrictions. I drop her off to school and my Sybil inner voices begin to argue.
"You're such an idiot - she bullied you with a smile into letting her go!"
"She's in the 8th grade now; you have to loosen the reins."
"Tanya, WTF - she's only 12! Those 14 year old boys ..."
"She's a great girl. She deserves to spend time with her friends."
"Did I give her enough money?"
"Did I give her too much money?"
"I don't know the parents of these kids - they could be private school hooligans."
"I'm sure she will call me?"
"Did I remember to threaten her within an inch of her life if I can't reach her on her cell phone?"
"I trust her. I hope she has a great time."
"I really need a glass of wine."
Of course, upon picking her up from her "hangout" session, I noticed that her skirt is rolled up two inches higher than permitted at her school. I get to hear (oh joy) about the girls and boys in attendance, the "flirting", the exchanges of Instagram addresses and who is dating whom. "God please take me now", is my prayer but I listen, bite my tongue and offer casual authoritarian commentary: "I hope there wasn't a lot of cursing. I hope that your group was not disturbing real customers. Does Susie's mom know that she has a boyfriend? Do you have any change?"
Over a glass of wine, a girlfriend and I chatted about our "firsts". First kisses, first serious crushes, first dates, first slow dance, wearing make-up and high heels. Dammit - it was about 8th grade. We reluctantly agreed that this was the year, our little girls were going to leap from secretly chatting with boys on Instagram and class "group chats", to going to co-ed parties, hanging with a co-ed group of friends, talking to a "crush" consistently, and the possibility of ... I can barely even write it - DATING! (I'm not sure, that I'm ready for the open, parent-approved dating yet.....Nope. I'm not. I've decided. No 8th grade dating. I need something to lament over in the 9th grade. "Quiet Sybil. Quiet!")
This is it: The "firsts" of 8th grade. I surrender to its power. Therefore, as she grows up and continues to blossom, I will cherish the evenings when she curls up in my bed, laughs like a silly little girl and we say our prayers together. Knowing that I've raised a really strong, confident, smart young lady, I worry little that her 8th grade "firsts" will be any more than the innocent "firsts" that I experienced: Nevertheless, I'm freaked the freak out.