My Daughter Wants to Quit Sixth Grade

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I found this old Livejournal post from December 2005, from my first month blogging, from when people actually commented on my blog and I actually knew everyone who did. All very weird. It’s a continuation in my 10 days of throw-back posts.

Here it goes.

My daughter wants to quit sixth grade.

Yesterday, as a result of a student rep meeting, the school stopped serving cookies.

Em, my daughter, said at the student rep meeting that it seemed strange to her that the school sells cookies for a quarter and salad for a dollar, when there’s this big “Healthy Eating Campaign.” She said it made it easier for rich kids to eat healthy because the rich kids have more money. Plus, you can get four cookies for the price of one salad, which makes you think it’s a much better deal so everyone who has a dollar buys four cookies.

The principal wrote in the minutes, “Kids question cost of healthy food vs cookies.”

The cook read it, thought, “They want no snack food. I’ll get rid of the cookies.”

The cook did.

Now, there are no more cookies. Now, there is no more ice cream. Not Em’s intention. Nor did she know it was happening. She likes cookies. She loves ice cream. She just doesn’t eat them all the time.

So, yesterday, a mean eighth grader named Sebastian spent all of recess running around demanding to know whose fault it was. Someone said Em mentioned something about cookies at a rep meeting. Sebastian with an ever-growing gang of followers (all eighth-grade boys) found some of Em’s friends and surrounded them.

“Do you know Emily?” they demanded. “Where is she?”

“She’s in Mr. Stackpole’s room, working on an essay.”

The bell rang. Three eighth grade boys sprinted for Mr. Stackpole’s room, where ring leader, Sebastian yelled in Emily’s face, “There are no cookies! There are no cookies! Bitch!”

Em had no idea what he was talking about. Because she is totally tough, she tried to ignore them. They didn’t stop. Her classmates filtered in.

“You took our cookies!” Sebastian screamed. 

Em gave in, looked up at the face of a big eighth-grade boy, who easily outweighs her by a hundred pounds and said in her takes-no-prisoners way, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Yes, Em does say sentences like that with that kind of Liam Nieson composure. I hear them all the time, especially when I ask her if she’s ready to wake up for school.

So, another classmate tells them to leave her alone and the boys leave when the teacher comes. Em is filled in about the cookie thing. All the 7th and 8th graders are angry at her. The sixth graders get it. The principal talks about it at the honors banquets. Emily, really, really, really does not want to go to school again.

“I do not like eighth grade boys,” she tells me this morning. “I really do not like them.”

“That’s okay,” I tell her. 

“Is that what men are like?” she says. She waits because I haven’t answered and then she repeats, “Men?”

I nod. “Not all men. Not all boys. Not all people are like that. Girls are mean too, right?”

“Yeah,” she says and stares out the window, “I guess.”

She doesn’t seem convinced.

And as I’m re-reading this post in the now, I’m sort of wondering how this event helped shape Emily into the awesome person she is today. How awesome?

1. She could be my body guard. She’s taken Krav and she’s a field artillery officer. I am serious.
2. She went to Harvard and has a super-high GPA but she is still nice and not pretentious and won awards for her thesis.
3. She still thinks healthy choices should be as inexpensive as not-so-healthy choices

I am proud of her, so super proud of her. Not because she is strong or smart, but because she has so much integrity and so much will, because she battles it out in crappy situations and doesn’t publicly lose her cool. I am proud of her because she is such a warrior. And because she thinks about things like healthy choices, because even in sixth-grade when someone huge and angry called her a bitch, she didn’t flinch.

She didn’t flinch because she knew that she was awesome.

I want everyone to be like that.

I want to be like that.

But I’m also so proud of her because she didn’t quit sixth grade. She came through it. And as a parent, it’s so hard sometimes to believe that your kids will make it through really tough times. Sometimes they don’t. And all we can do is love them and try to be empathetic and strong for them. And sometimes we don’t do that perfectly. That’s because we’re human. We’re all human. And we all need to love.

We like to think that we can control our kids’ choices, always heal their pain, but we aren’t all-powerful, none of us. We can’t fix so many things and we definitely can’t control outcomes and feelings of other people. And that’s hard to come to terms with. We want to save the world. We want to save our family. We want the power to fix all things and we don’t have that. We can only make our own choices and hope.

All we can do is do our best. Speak our truths. Love our loves. Respect and listen to other experiences and stop judging so much when other people’s experiences and thoughts and loves and life choices aren’t our own.


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