My Satellite


No souls are so brave and hardy as those who take up the charge of educating middle schoolers, especially seventh grade middle schoolers.  Ask any teacher which students are the most smelly, emotionally labile and least logical, and you’ll get seventh graders.  Hands down.  The refrain is a constant:  they’re a tangle of hormones which leads to a series of inexplicable body changes which lead to a series of poor decision-making.  They assert a fierce need to exert independence.  They need you more than ever while at the same time hate needing you, so, and let me say this loudly enough for those of you in the back:  I DON’T NEED YOUR HELP, MOM.  *roll eyes, skulk off, maybe huff petulantly*

In seven days, I will be a mother to a seventh grader.  I haven’t written about my big kid much this summer, since camp anyway.  It’s not that I’m any less worried or engaged in his life than I’ve been at any other time.  I think I’m avoiding reality, and not the I’m getting older because I realize my kid’s getting older reality.  I’ve come to learn and accept that my child has long known he was different.  I’ve written that here before, but there are moments when that truth speaks more clearly than at other times.  Right now?  That truth is screaming in my ear.  He has never been one of social giftedness, and clearly, he’s not gifted with athletics or agility, so he’s found a comfortable spot on the bench orbiting, but not being in the center of the action.  He’s always been just a spin on the outside of the action, always known he’s a satellite.


My children attend a K-8 school, which means that they more or less have the same classmates from K4 through eighth grade.  I’ve been thrilled that my son has had the same nice group of friends most of his life.  While he’s never been “in there” with the guys with physical play nor with video games, mostly that’s been OK, and he’s been content to watch from the sidelines.  See, the outliers know they’re outliers.  He knew he wasn’t skilled at those things back when we thought he was merely clumsy and/or lazy.  His friends included him, even though he has never been quite in there with them, and I’d always been grateful.  From about first grade on though,  I’d always feared that status would change.  Fortunately that change has been slow in coming, but it’s coming, of that I am sure.  And that shift in the social world of seventh grade?  For my boy, for right now, I fear this more palpably than the fear of his muscular dystrophy gaining on him (possible overstatement, I do that).  I fear for him the social world more than homework, physical declination, and his class trip all wrapped up in one.  But I’m not kidding anyone, myself especially, as everything about this year is wrapped up into one, and each affects the success (or lack thereof) of the other.

Think back:  were you the seventh grade cool kid?  If you were, you know you were.  Were you the nerdy, geeky kid, the one who scored good grades, but hid that from the cool kids because you so badly wanted to be like and liked by them?  You know if you were.  Were you the pariah, the kid who suffered dreadful acne or had but two pairs of pants and maybe, if you were lucky, had two clean shirts?  You know if you were.  Were  you the always a beat behind kid, the one who never got the jokes, but laughed a little too long and loudly anyway?  You know if you were.  With the grace of time, our seventh grade selves forget being whichever outlier we felt we were.  Or do we simply  move forward?  We painfully, awkwardly trudge into adulthood and find ourselves (and for some of us–can’t be just me–the trudge is ongoing, and continues throughout adulthood).  We find our place in the world eventually though, and thrive.  Maybe we just survive, but we don’t remain the exposed hormonal/neuronal mess we are in middle school.  But we also don’t completely forget that time either, do we?  No, we don’t.

One of my son’s friends told him that he finds him annoying.  My child is annoying, I mean, hello?  He’s a seventh grader, so I understand why this friend finds him so, but it hurt both my boy and me.  I’d say mostly him, but the fallout from the exclusion was shared, and no one hurts more than the mom whose child’s heart aches.  Another kid made fun of him for not being able to keep up as they were messing around, kinda running and tearing around.  No one rolls eyes better than a seventh grader SO DONE with another seventh grader (except probably my seventh grader’s mom–it’s a gift/curse that has gotten poker face me into more trouble than I’d like to admit), so when Other Kid sighed at him in annoyance, I heard a tone in my big kid that voiced a lifetime of frustration:  “I HAVE MD, Other Kid’s Name here, GOD!” And then shortly thereafter after he recovered, “Mom, I’m ready to go now.  Can we go?”

Yeah, we can go.  But where do you go?  You still go to school, you still must learn to navigate the social labyrinth that is adolescence, so you can’t hide behind the keyboard the rest of your life, my boy.  You also can’t play the MD card when things get uncomfortable, kid.  It’s real, and it’s not taking a break from wrecking your muscles, so you better play nicely with this jerk disease in the sandbox together. Ugh.  My annoying, sweet, not-so-gifted socially, but decent, honest child.  Where will you go?  I knew this day would come–no parent gets a pass–so why all of the sudden is this stealing my sleep?  I don’t have a moral of the story or anything, but I think, which means I hope, you can be a satellite and still plow right through the middle (school).  I sure hope so.

The bell is ringing–time to get to class!




11 thoughts on “My Satellite

  1. My child told me yesterday that he would rather play by himself than with other kids. Then he went outside to play “ninja” alone. My heart broke. You’re right. They know who they are….and what category they put themselves in. However when the asshole kid next door told my kid he wasn’t in his “league” you still wanna punch the little jerk. Being a mom is hard. It would be easier if you were my neighbor šŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jordyn was told by her best friend of 13 years that they couldn’t be best friends anymore (didn’t know you had to announce that). She was devastated. Is devastated. It comes down to her friend not liking her boyfriend, but more so that Jordyn is not religious and can’t help guide her with her journey with God. What?!!!!! I feel so bad for her. I can empathize with you and with Tyler’s friends starting to exclude him. It sucks! Jordyn is being excluded by all the girls that hang with her ex best friend. They make plans to do things right in front of her. Why do people have to be so cruel.


    • His friends haven’t started excluding him, not in the way your daughter’s suffering (girls can be SO mean). It’s just that they’re noticing and calling out his differences more and doing it so overtly. I love the kid more than anything, but I know he is annoying at times–I’m sure their parents think the same at times of their own kids too. Don’t we all? Thinking about all this just made me fearful for what’s to come when it is with intent and meanness. Man I ache for Jordyn. Why DO people have to be so cruel??


  3. Such a great post Wendy. Makes me tear up thinking about having been one of those 7th graders myself. Funny how adult life was going along great and 7th grade was far behind me until I met up with the world of traveling sports and now feeling like the mom who always feels excluded. Single parent, non-partier, introvert, puts me back in to that 7th grade slot so quickly when it comes to this. How do we help our kids through this when some of us still struggle with it ourselves. I was always afraid of having a daughter and having her go through all this fitting in “stuff” like I had. I guess God knew my fears and that’s why he gave her a twin brother. Don’t know why this hit me so hard today – maybe it’s the fact that my big kid went off to Iowa State two weeks ago and there is this huge hole in my heart. Happily the twins are off to 8th grade and are over the hump a bit. Hope all goes well for you and your boys this school year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so sweet to say what you did here, Laura. Thanks so much! You’re so right–you clip along, living your life, doing your thing, and all of the sudden–BAM! You’re feeling an adult version of being the kid who questions your own confidence, and middle school comes back pretty clearly. Not that our situation’s exactly the same, but club baseball had a similar effect on me, but mine was about age! I was by far the oldest parent of any of my little guys’ teammates, and while they were so great and we had great fun, I made my age an issue internally. To their everlasting credit, they never commented on it, but I was always a teensy bit self-conscious of it. Why are we so hard on ourselves? Geez, TJ’s in college? How does that happen?? Thinking of you–xoxo


  4. I recall seventh grade as the worst grade for me personally and for my son. Ick. I wouldn’t go back there for a whole lot of money and I know Ryan wouldn’t either. I hope he finds his groove and settles in. Hugs for both of you!


  5. I just sent my satellite kid off to college last week. Yay for fresh starts. Eventhough I know it won’t change the fabric of who he is, I am grateful that he has an opportunity to begin anew. Perhaps this time he’ll find his people. You’re right, there is nothing worse than watching our children get hurt as they travel the road from childhood to adulthood. It sucks! All the best to your big kid as he takes on seventh grade. I’m certain he has the best support system at home. Thinking of you, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just have to keep believing that we all find our tribe eventually. I have been fortunate to have had good friends throughout my lifetime. Some have been for a specific time or reason of place or activity, and many are for life, but I have known truly good people who’ve been truly good to me. It’s so much harder watching my child struggle through, but I would bet that I struggled similarly–didn’t we all? Well, didn’t most of us anyway? Good luck to your college-bound not-so-little one, and I’ll happily accept all the luck you’re sending for my big guy. Thanks!


  6. I sent my satellite off to college last week. Hooray for fresh starts. Even though I know this experience won’t change the fabric of who he is (nor do I want it to), I am happy that he has this opportunity to begin anew. Nothing hurts us more as parents than watching our kids get hurt as they navigate the oftentimes ugly maze of adolescence. I am so sorry that your big kid has to go through this. I do know that he has the best support system at home and as a result he will weather this with a whole lot of love and a good dose of humor. Doesn’t make it any easier for the mom though. Here’s to the best possible seventh grade year. Good luck.


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