The first day of school. My morning solitude is officially a thing of the past, at least on weekdays. The hub-bub has already descended around me, and it’s only a quarter past six. There’s excitement in the air, excitement brought by the notion of a fresh start, the endless possibilities of a new school term. New friends to meet, boys to check out, social orders to structure. Oh, yeah, new subjects to learn. That too.
My daughters inspect themselves carefully from head to toe. They dwell on every imperfection, from the slightest blemish on the cheek to the chapped bottom lip. It all matters so much, too much, really. Their fortunes in middle school will rise and fall on a blemish, or the wrong style of sneaker worn, or whether their hair cooperates this morning.
I remember that kind of adolescent fretting, though I can’t say for sure what I fretted about. The same things, I’m sure. It wasn’t pleasant. Being a girl hasn’t changed much between 1970, when I entered 8th grade, and 2005. It’s still about looking a certain way, being attractive to boys, popular with the “in crowd.” My daughters will likely survive this difficult time, just as I did. There will undoubtedly be scars that will take time — perhaps into adulthood — to heal. They’ll make mistakes and pay the price. They’ll laugh and cry and love and get their hearts broken. With the help of God and some TLC from Mom and Dad, they’ll survive it all no worse for the wear. And someday they’ll watch their own children primp and fuss in front of a mirror getting ready for the 8th grade and remember what it was like for them.