Middle-school guidelines you post and kids ignore

April 25, 1999|By Susan Reimer

MIDDLE SCHOOLS are often criticized as an academic empty space between the feel-good fundamentals of elementary school and the real-life, real problems of high school.

Middle-school kids are straddling childhood and the teen years, and they look as awkward as they feel. They are so intensely social at this age that it is hard to get them to shut up long enough to learn anything. And their moods and energy levels, pushed and pulled by the riptides in their changing bodies, make them unpredictable and difficult to love.

It is a wonder that the selfless teachers and the weary parents survive the three lost years of middle school.

All they need to do is listen to me.

I have designed what I think is an ideal set of middle-school guidelines.

You will notice that these guidelines are lacking in academic substance. Of course they are. It is pointless to try to teach middle-schoolers anything that does not bear on personal appearance, gossip or the opposite sex. What is the point of learning the sequence of operations if all the girls are wearing shorts today and you are not?

You may also notice that my middle-school rules are vaguely familiar. You may have heard them in your own home. Coming out of your own mouth.

Well, here they are. Post them on the fridge, where only you will read them.

* Your hair is perfect. Eat. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. How can you think on an empty stomach?

* You are late! Get going! Haven't you noticed that when you are late, you are late for the same class every day? Don't you think that will handicap your success in that class?

* Eat your lunch. Girls, the No-Lunch Lunch Club has been disbanded. Dieting is like smoking. Some kids can do it once and walk away. But you never know if you are the one who will get hooked after just one.

* Eat your lunch. And just your lunch. Boys, that dog-begging-at-the-table act is repulsive. The girls feed you their lunches because they don't know what else to do with you, not because they find your behavior attractive.

* Nobody is going out with anybody. Where would you go, anyway? Clubbing? Dinner? Movies? I don't think so. You are all just friends, get it? And nobody owns anybody else.

* No phone, no TV, no video games and no Internet after 6 p.m. And no debate. If you don't have homework, as you continue to claim, read or sleep. Either one is better for you than the phone, the TV or the computer.

* Get organized. Your backpack looks as if it is vomiting paper. Keep it neat by yourself or we will do it together, and I know how you will feel about that.

* No boy-girl parties. The boys arrive acting shy, but they will eventually act like wild animals. At least one girl will cry, and four more will have their feelings hurt. The post-party spin will last a month, and in that time, no one will hear anything else, like class assignments or what your parents are saying for the millionth time.

* Play a sport, any sport. I'll drive, I'll write the checks. But you are not spending your afternoons going through my pantry like a raccoon and watching Ricki Lake.

* Get to bed. I don't care what lotions you need to apply. The bathroom is not part of your private suite of rooms.

* Go to sleep! I don't care what your body clock tells you. You may not be tired, but I am.

* Good night. I love you....

Pub Date: 04/25/99

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