As a parent, I worry to death that the two of them will have good teachers, that they'll do well in class, and that they'll avoid the pitfalls that befell me when I was their age.
I recall my last year of elementary school as a weird year in which hormones were raging through my body. I was bigger than most of the other kids, had hair growing in strange places, had experienced a voice change that took me from soprano in the school choir to bass, and felt like a complete nerd because of big hair, big glasses and a low self esteem. In other words, 6th grade kind of sucked. I was lucky to have my best friend, Matt, to hang around with, but I don't recall ever being 100% happy during that year. I'd talk back to my teacher, have outbursts in class (embarrassing to admit) and really wanted to be liked by the cool kids and the girls I pined for.
Still, 6th grade did find me writing my first short story (a mystery called "Midnight") and for some reason my parents allowed me to read mature literature such as Richard Hooker's MASH and Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot. I'm not sure I want my son reading about war, vampires and sex. I also excelled in football, using my size to an advantage. Finally, 6th grade found me really discovering rock music and learning to play the drums.
9th grade was another turning point in my life. I was faced with a choice of playing football or playing in the marching band. Although 9th graders didn't play on varsity, if I chose to play ball throughout high school I would have had to make that decision. It weighed heavy on me for the first month of school. I was leaning toward playing in the band. This was not because of my dad, the school band director. In fact, my parents told me that if I chose to keep playing football I would only have to be in winter band.
The truth was that all of my friends were in band. They had accepted me as Scott Malchus, and not the band director's kid or some punk freshman. I was just Scott and being embraced like this meant the world to me. Not that the football players gave me shit for being in the band. Sure, there were a couple knuckleheads that still adhered to the "jocks vs. band kids" mentality of the 70s (and still used the term "band fag"), but the decent guys I socialized with who were football players never said anything. Two major changes happened in 9th grade that cause me to lose whatever edge I had as a ballplayer.
1. I had stopped growing in 7th grade. Everyone I outsized in junior high caught up and towered over me. Since I'd never worked out in my life, I was a pencil thin, medium sized kid who was easily tossed aside by some monster sized guys.
2. Girls. I went on my first date in 9th grade. Had my first real kiss in 9th grade. I won't go into any further details about 9th grade because Sophie might read this, but let's just say that having girls pay attention to you can sap whatever rage that is brewing inside right out of the body. You know that scene in Raging Bull, the one where DeNiro's Jake LaMotta won't have sex with his wife right before a fight? Yeah, sexual frustration can make a normally meek guy an aggressive football player. Trust me.
Thus, my desire to hit people was waning when I entered high school. Yet, I didn't want to just quit. I still had a competitive side to me that wanted to be an athlete.
The decision was made for me during the first freshman football game. Somehow I wound up one of the starting defensive ends. On one of the last plays of the first half of the first game, I shredded my ACL and ended my football career.
9th grade wound up sucking for a different reason. I had friends and had a blast, socially, but I spent most of the year on crutches and struggled to get my mobility back in my knee. It was a painful, frustrating time. Oh, and I got my heart broken for the first time. But that's another story.
I'm so excited for Sophie. I think she's going to have a great year. She has great friends and I'm impressed with how much she's pushing herself to get ready for swim team tryouts. I just hope she doesn't get her heart broken. Alas, I can't prevent that.
There are other things going on in our household, things I may discuss at a future time. For now, I'll leave you with these two songs. One a favorite from August 1981, when I entered 6th, and the other from August 1984, when I entered 9th.