Josh and I (somewhat) recently watched Eighth Grade, the move directed by Bo Burnham and I’m realizing now that in some ways we relive the moments of this movie every single day. The film is “coming of age story” about a thirteen year old girl, who is going through her last week of eighth grade. What I personally loved about the movie was that it was raw, it showed things like kids picking at their rubber bands, making awkward Youtube videos where they lied about who they were, sexual curiosity and so on. It reminded me a lot of things that I encountered while in middle school and made us both think about what our middle school student is going through.
A big word in our house is “cringey” due to the fact that there are a lot of things that occur on a day to day basis that make Josh and I want to throw up in our mouths a little bit. A few weeks ago, my sister called her dentist to set up an appointment. In this generation, I would guess that a majority of kids don’t know how to use proper phone etiquette because they are so used to texting. Anyway, she called the dentist in front of Josh’s entire family, after waiting on hold the receptionist answered with a bubbly “Thank you for calling —- dental. How may I assist you today?” My sister waited, what felt like hours and finally responded with “Hi”, in the deepest, most awkward voice we’ve ever heard. Everyone immediately said “Oh my God London, say something!” Eventually she went into the other room to carry out her phone call. But that moment is the perfect example of why cringey is a word commonly used in our household.
Let me follow up this story with the fact that while writing this, I was alarmed to hear both of the teenagers hysterical in the living room which is directly below our bedroom. I quickly threw on my robe and ran down the stairs to find them holding on to each other in a corner of the room. When the girls saw me they both started talking a mile a minute and what I got from it was, was that a “huge bug” had “attacked them”. One of the girls was nearly in tears and the other was laughing so hard, she nearly peed her pants. Cringey.
However, I often feel guilty that we use this word so often. Middle school is one of the hardest times of your life. It’s the worst. I remember not feeling in control of my own emotions, like no one understood me. Everything was always so much more dramatic than it needed to be, but in the moment I felt as if I was in the right. Now that we are dealing with someone in middle school, I realize just how wrong I was about certain things. Every day Josh and I try to instill positivity into the girls. We try to compliment them, encourage them to try things, to express themselves, but most importantly to see the best in things when you are able to. In a comparison of all three of the girls stages of life, I realize that the one in middle school has the hardest time with this. She believes that “negativity is a normal part of life”, that everyone and everything is negative. She can’t necessarily accept compliments, because in middle school a majority of the kids are assholes. They tear each other down, they hurt each other emotionally and physically, they’re just bullies. Middle school is an entire building filled with unstable babes with raging hormones and no self control.
It’s so hard to counteract all the negativity that she receives at school. It’s even harder to counteract that negativity in a child who has been exposed to that level of hatred their entire life. Some days it feels like I can’t say enough positive things to do the job and I go to bed feeling defeated. But I do my best to wake up every morning with the same level of energy to try again the next day. I try my best to recharge myself so I can carry on and do the job tomorrow. I know that one day I will be able to break down the wall of anger around her and she will finally understand the way things work a little better. However, I also know that I still have years of high school children ahead of me and I can feel my grey hairs staring to grow.
Included is my own middle school picture, I felt as if it was only fair. My own version of cringey, circa 2008 but I am happy to say I survived middle school.