"Are you sure all these kids are sixth grade? A couple of people look like they belong in high school," Tom said beside me, looking baffled as a tall boy with stubble walked past.
"It's just the sixth grade awards," I explained. "So yes, these are only sixth graders."
It's always a bit of a shock to go from an elementary school world, into a middle school one. In the elementary world, there are colorful cartoon pictures on the walls, children without stubble, and kids sporting t-shirts with Disney Princesses on them. In the middle school world, girls were wearing tight tops that showed off breasts (!) and many kids wore too much cologne or perfume. The air was thick with Axe.
"I want to go back to elementary school," I whispered to Tom. "I like it better there."
"Why? Middle school means the kids are growing up which means they are almost out of my house," Tom answered.
I had no idea what award Tommy was even getting. I received a letter in the mail stating that he would be getting an award, but it didn't specify.
"Where's my baby boy?" I asked Tom, as clumps of students filtered in. Many looked bored.
"He's not here yet and he's not a baby boy," Tom replied.
"He'll always be my baby boy."
Tom rolled his eyes.
I'm like Beverly Goldberg from the show The Goldbergs. She calls her kids cutsey names, even though they are all over the age of 12. She doesn't like the fact that they are growing up. She says things like this:
We have a lot in common, Beverly and I. I'm still in disbelief that I even HAVE a child in middle school.
"I want to go back to elementary school where the kids still look cute," I muttered to Tom, who once again rolled his eyes.
When Tommy came in, I waved. He flicked his eyes briefly towards us, and walked with his class.
"In elementary school, he'd have acknowledged our presence," I fumed.
Natalie still happily waved when I turned up for her events. "Hi Mommy!" she'll bellow. "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!"
In middle school I imagine it'll all change. I noticed NONE of the kids acknowledged their parents. One Mom tried to get her kid to come over for a photo.
"Mom, NO, stop it!" the girl snapped, rushing past.
Would that be Natalie in a few years?!
"I don't like it here," I said.
"You're weird," Tom told me, only because he has no heart.
So the awards show began, and the principal began speaking. At one point she told the students to give their parents a round of applause, because they couldn't do so well without us. A group of sixth graders were nearby and I heard one boy say, "I'm not clapping for my parents. They can go fu*k themselves."
I almost fell off the bleachers.
In a couple of years, would my kids be saying that I can go fu*k myself? WHAT WORLD WAS I IN?
The first awards were for the Honor Society, which I was never in, because math is EVIL EVIL EVIL. Tommy didn't get in either, because he inherited my ability to NOT be able to do math. Sorry kid. It looks like Natalie doesn't get math either.
Then each teacher stood up and picked two students from all their classes to get an award for positive attitude and good behavior.
Tommy got one for language arts! He would not look at me:
His teachers always gush on how polite he is. How he tries. He's told me before, "Why are boys my age so rude to adults?"
Tommy seemed nervous going up front. His eyes flicked all over the place.
More awards were passed out. The straight A awards were given. Tommy did not get straight As even though he wants to.
"It's MATH!" he once bellowed.
"I know. I never got straight As either because of math. It's okay son, I'm not a tiger mom, I'm not going to freak."
The final award was the You Can Do It award given to only two kids in the entire 100+ sixth grade.
Tommy got it for the boys.
It meant he had an overall positive attitude and that he tries his best always.
And that was it. We could go find our kid and take pictures after, even though Tommy looked a tad mortified to see me coming towards him with a camera.
"My boy!" I gushed and went to kiss him, but stopped when I saw some boys watching and snickering. Middle school can be a scary place; I didn't want to make things worse for Tommy. There are, after all, rude boys.
"Good job," I said diplomatically and shook Tommy's confused hand.
I'm incredibly proud of him. School does not come easy since he has autism. He constantly has to process new things and cope with changes.
But he does it, because he's awesome.
And now he's technically in seventh grade.