My oldest child is a fifth grader which means we are up to our eyeballs in deciding to which middle school program he should apply. We live in a school district with multiple middle schools and several magnet programs and the whole thing came to a head early last week when he said in tears, “But Mom. What if I make the wrong choice? My whole life will be ruined!”
He was completely serious and those tears combined with his fears broke my heart. Of course, we grown-ups know that very few educational choices made in the sixth grade are truly going to ruin a person’s life. Hanging out with the kids doing meth at lunch? That will ruin your life. Taking Spanish instead of German? Not so much. But for my 10 year old child, this decision of what academic program best suits his interests and skills has the patina of being a life-changer.
My son has a goodly amount of my own angsty self in him. I was just the same kind of kid and so I have been very careful to not make comments that add to his stress. Of course, these things happen at times, but I try to be aware of word choice, inferred expectations, what have you. These past few days, I’ve been handing over tissues and thinking about how much simpler it would be if we lived in a tiny town with only one middle school option.