Dear Sixth Grade Boy,
Well, the time has come to say goodbye. It seems hard to believe that my life will no longer be surrounded with such a level of crotch-grabbing, nose-picking, and girl-baiting. I know that high school boys have some strange habits as well, but somehow, they seem less relentless due to the increased level of self-awareness and, you know, actual girls around who could possibly be paying attention.
In some ways, I will miss you. I will miss you nerdy ones, who like to talk about the Titanic or the battles of the Civil War, or like to try to stump me in Greek mythology. I will miss the tender-hearted ones, who make sure that the boy with Autism always has someone to partner up with during pair reading, even if it makes their partnership with their best pal an awkward trio. I will miss the ones who surprise themselves when they write a really good line of poetry, or take the risk to sing a solo line in the Christmas play. I will miss the ones who I know still snuggle up against their moms when they are home alone, and maybe still have a little stuffed animal under their pillow where their older brother can’t see it. I will miss the ones who don’t totally know their gay yet, but never miss a chance to comment on my hairstyle or my shoes, and remember to have spirited conversations with me about Glee on Wednesday mornings.
Boys, I still feel a bit like I am abandoning you to the wilds of the middle school hallway, and hope that I have left enough behind to instill in you some compassion, fortitude and gentle reminders to use extra deodorant on gym days.
And you know, I feel like I should miss the Jakes most of all. There’s always a Jake, sometimes two, and you know who you are. (Though your name might also be Nick or Sean or Matt. It doesn’t really matter. You’re still the Jake.) I feel like I should miss you, and part of me wants to stick around and give you the parenting that is either not working, or not evident at all. But you know what, Jake? I should miss you, but I actually won’t.
I won’t miss you randomly falling out of your chair during writing workshop time to be funny. I won’t miss you asking me to go to the bathroom three times during every class, doing the pee-pee emergency dance, when you know you’ve lost your in-class bathroom privleges because of various issues involving permanent markers and paper towels in the toilet. I won’t miss you interrupting every single time I give directions just to derail me and create mayhem in an effort to have power in some arena of your life. I will not miss you asking me the same question over and over again as I sit at my desk in a thinly veiled attempt to look down my shirt. I will not miss my fear every time I have to take you on a field trip that you will open the rear door of the bus and plunge into highway traffic, or steal from the museum gift shop on a dare. I will not miss hearing you bark like a dog in the hallway after lunch and blame it on a kid from the other class, and I will not miss the emails from your parents telling me that it’s somehow my fault that you don’t write your homework in your agenda. ‘Cause the thing is, you’re 12. You can write down your own damned homework. I won’t miss caring about your education so very much more than you do.
Jake, or Jake-equivalent, I have done my time. I have had anxiety dreams about your Egypt projects, given you days worth of lunch detentions to prove a point about getting your Climbing Mount Everest poem through to its final draft, and given you endless rah-rah-you-can-do-it speeches. The you-can-still-change speeches. The effort-is-the-most-important speeches. I have given you, every one of you, a piece of my heart without ever really knowing if it will make a difference, or if I’ll simply see your name in the police ledger ten years from now.
Sad, but true.
Boys, please strive. The world needs good men, and everyone, everyone, is capable of finding their highest and best self and sharing it. I have high hopes for every single one of you, and I do have faith that with the right people in your corner, you can overcome your Jake-ness, find a good job, experience the love of a good woman or man, and make it through an hour without checking to make sure that your boy-parts are still intact.
I believe in you, and I always will. But now I am done.