Wanna know when I started worrying about the social dynamic in junior high? The moment I found out I was having a girl. Because girls in junior high can be meeeeean. And that’s the understatement of the century. There are like 10 million things to worry about in junior high these days, as opposed to when I was a kid and there were only 9 million.
- Who are you going to sit by at lunch?
- What if people make fun of what you’re wearing?
- Why didn’t anyone answer your text message last night?
- Are you going to see all your friends hanging out on a TikTok video without you?
- Why did all those girls stop whispering the second you walked over?
- Etc etc etc etc etc.
Seriously, there aren’t enough etceteras in the world.
And as a parent, watching your kiddo go through this is basically the equivalent of having someone stick a serrated knife into your heart and start sawing the thing back and forth. For three years.
So when Zoey started junior high four weeks ago, I did my best not to freak the F out, but I have to admit, I was freaking the F out. Eeeeks, they’re gonna eat her alive. But I tried to calm myself down. Don’t assume the worst, focus on what junior high is really about. Academics! So when she got in the car every day after school, I was very good at asking her about her classes.
ME: How was Math today?
ZOEY: It was fi—
ME: Who’d you sit by at lunch?Are you making friends?Are people being nice?Is anyone not nice?
I had verbal diarrhea of freaking out questions. Yup, I failed miserably. But in the process of failing miserably, miraculously I got some answers.
On the first day of school, the students found out they would always sit with their homeroom class for lunch because of the pandemic. And as much as I hate Covid’s F’ing guts, this is one of the silver linings. Less jockeying for seats in the lunchroom. Or in Zoey’s case, the lunch spot on the grass six feet away from anyone else.
Anyways, naturally, Zoey gravitated toward the two kids she knew from her elementary school and they sat together for lunch the first day. And all I could think was oh THANK GOD she has someone to sit by.
But on day two, something happened. Zoey noticed a girl in her class was crying at lunchtime. A girl who was brand new to the area. As if starting a new school isn’t hard enough, try starting a new junior high school during a pandemic. Oy vey. But Zoey being Zoey, she invited the girl to come sit with them. And this is where it gets interesting.
Apparently the four girls sat together for the rest of the week and then something happened…
ZOEY: Mom, we even have a name.
ME: Whatta you mean a name?
ZOEY: For our group! We call ourselves the Fantastic Four.
And two thoughts went through my crazy head. Yayyyy, she has a group!!!!!! And oh crap, please don’t let them be one of those mean exclusive groups that doesn’t let other kids in.
ME: That’s great! Just make sure you don’t exclude others, okay?
ZOEY: (eye roll) Of course not, Mom.
But then a few days passed and I overheard her telling someone about their group and she said…
ZOEY: We call ourselves the Fabulous Five.
Wait, what? Five??? When did someone new join? OMG, this means I’m not verbal diarrhea-ing her with enough questions. How could I have missed this?! Must. Fix. Problem.
ME: Hey Zoey, I thought you were the Fantastic Four?
ZOEY: We were. But then Chloe joined.
ME: Who’s Chloe?
Ends up Chloe got in a fight with her friends so the Fantastic Four invited her to join them one day and she stuck around so they changed their name to the Fabulous Five. And that’s when I realized something.
ME: Zoey, this is awesome! And if anyone else joins, you can be the Super Six!
ZOEY: Or the (thinking hard) Sensational Seven!
ME: Or the Excellent Eight!
It’s like the complete opposite of an exclusive group. It’s a group that’s excited to invite new people to join. And suddenly I was having this amazing fantasy of ALLLLL the girls in the school being invited to join this little group until they become the Wonderful 100. No wait, F that. Quality over quantity. And I need to keep reminding myself of this. It’s not about how big her group is or how popular her group is. It’s just about having a nice group of girls she knows she can count on.
And right now the Fabulous Five is perfect just the way it is. You know, until someone else is lonely and needs a place to sit.
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