Putting 8th Grade In Perspective

Here were are, friends and neighbors.

Rounding the turn.

Along the track receding behind us, American Girl. Strawberry Shortcake. Wonderpets. Soccer Saturdays, and quiet Sundays – snuggled on my lap singing the theme from Spongebob. Hannah Montana. We watched every episode, didn’t we? Sweet niblets.

This is that moment in life known as Halfway Through 8th Grade.  

Once I taught her how to kick a ball. Now I am teaching her to drive.


I’ve always said that my favorite year was 8th Grade, but I can find something to make me say that about every year I was in school. I understand not everyone loves that time. I did, but not nearly as much as I love watching her love it.

Seeing her form friendships and imagine new tomorrows. 8th Grade is a great time for doing that. And now she’s been to a state championship football game to watch those older kids, drink in that craziness, and see what could be an electric time to come. I come from a long line of educators, and I hope they’ll understand this as it’s meant, but I’ve always told my children that school is just one part of their education. I want them to order the whole sampler platter. You’re only 13 once.

What I really care about is what you’re like when you’re 23.

And that’s when it hits me. We’re now much closer to that than we are to Wonderpets.


See, not counting pre-K or kindergarten, you get twelve. That’s it. Now, I’ve always agreed with the idea that we learn the most important lessons of life before we’re even 3. Basics, such as knowing when to eat, when to sleep, and when to poop. Master these early and you will appreciate the abilities in a larger sense later.

But generally, we think of that span between the day we first watched them waddle off alone through a classroom door to the day they don cap and gown as…twelve years. Not long.

And here we stand halfway through eight.

The only thing harder than being a parent is being a child, you know. We require a lot of those brand-new brains in 17 or 18 years. From Day One we start cramming it in, hoping something will stick – if only for when things ever get sticky. Future days may test that. It’s quite a bit to ask, if you think long about it. Plenty of us a good deal older are still trying to get it right.

No biggie. Just eighteen years more or less to download all the things that glue humanity together. Learn how to say please and thank you. Say “No”. Don’t chew with your mouth open. Balance a checking account. Write notes. Treat others kindly. Leave it better than you found it. Decide what you stand for. Who you’ll vote for. What you’re prepared to fight and maybe die for. What you want to live for.

You know they never stop learning from you, even when you do things that make you wish that wasn’t so. A few weeks ago, she spilled boiling water on her hand. Nasty burn, but healing well. Over the weekend she texted me a pic of what the alpine air is doing to it while she’s off skiing with friends. I explained why. She texts back, “See, this is why I always tell me friends, ‘Let me ask my dad’”.

Now all I have to do is live up to that.

It’s funny how much smarter my Pop became over the years. At this point I consider him a bloody genius, and would punch 17-year-old me right in the mouth – so I know this stuff ebbs and flows. But, man. Two-thirds.

We’re talking about stuff like college, and not just who has the coolest band or best colors. We’re using words such as “pursue”. We think about geographical distances, and drive-times. Which highways have lousy weather. I’ve been here before. Her older brothers stood at this gateway before. Look at those two now. It’ll be okay.

But this one? Yeah, it’s different. Breathe, dad.

Understand, this child is everything you could hope for in raising one. I also learned via her brothers that such is more of a credit to who they are as people than who I am. All three leave me speechless. People say I must be proud. The word is grateful.

But, I mean, look at that face?

This is how Tevye felt, and I know what comes next in Fiddler.

Look, I don’t know if that means college and neither does she. That’s fine. To me, it doesn’t matter. If she really wants to, she’ll find a way to go to college at the time that best suits her – but I always expect her to further her education. If that means she’s in school, terrific. But I’ve also told her teaching ski lessons in Colorado for a year or leading trail rides somewhere wouldn’t be a bad way of sharpening other tools she’ll need – and who wouldn’t want to be that girl? The one with the jeep and the wind in her hair. The one who can handle things, with the good head on her shoulders. The formidable one.

I mean, I was never that good in math. You start thinking of engineering schools. Theater? Yeah, I could see her choosing something like that. Maybe do something with her love of wildlife.

“…there’s an animal in trouble, some-where!”

I wonder where such an idea might have started.

And this time next year, it’ll be halfway through her first year of…hold on. This will take some practice.

High scho…aw, never mind. Let me stop here before I get the bends.  

Listen, honey. There’s so much more ahead. I hope you squeeze every bit of life out of it you can. You already have qualities I can only envy. You know how to listen. You know when to keep your own counsel. You’ve got a good bead on things. You can handle yourself in a fix. I like your choice of friends, and your open heart. You’re head is screwed on straight. I know right now I can throw you the keys. I’m excited beyond my ability to express it in words for you. I love you.  

But two-thirds. Da-yum.

Where did it go? Where did it go?