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Purgatory-on-earth: 8th Grade

The Church may teach that Purgatory is a possibility after death, but I know the truth:  8th grade is the real Purgatory.

I hate 8th grade.  And I'm not talkin' about my own 8th grade experience (Coleman Middle School, 1978-'79, bad fashion year, bad hair year, bad self-esteem year).  No, I'm talkin' about the fact that, for my own kids, 8th grade seems to be the year when their brains leave for vacation at an amusement park, their judgement gets left behind in the dust, "you're grounded" gets said so many times that my dogs start thinking that I've changed their names and come running and it's a toss-up as to whether that the kid is gonna make it to 9th grade...literally.

I know that it's no fun for my kids.  They are trying to navigate the treacherous waters of middle school society in a leaky boat.  Nothing on the elementary school scene prepares one for things like note-passing, pre-algebra and that teacher that really gives "zeroes" for not turning in homework.  You make a bad choice, and suddenly, there are consequences:  you lose your cell phone, your ability to hang out with a friend or you get dish duty for a week.  (That's always the dreaded punishment in my house.)  However, it's even less fun for the parents:  who wants to have a grumpy 13 year old boy stuck at the house, moaning about nothing to do?  Not me.

But Dear Husband and I keep at it.  (Thank God, this is our last 8th grader.)  Why?  Because their brains come back, they start to realize that A+B=C every single time, and Mom & Dad WILL find out.  Because, as much as I hate 8th grade (and I HATE 8th grade), I love my kid.  I love my kid enough to get through 8th grade...again.

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Crossing Guard

I saw you
today
as you guided
your little man across that busy street.

You were wearing some
big man boots
and
watching cars and lights.

Your little man had on
black sneakers and
a Mickey Mouse hat
that bounced
as he walked.

He wasn't watching nothing but
your big man boots
and
the white stripes of the crosswalk.

Just before
he got to the sidewalk again,
his step bounced a bit
- he hopped over
a spot where the asphalt broke.

You turned to look,
holding out a hand to
your little man.
Not rushed or angry,
just making sure
he got up
on that sidewalk.

Then you walked on,
in your big man boots,
face into a cold Michigan wind,
with the little man behind,
his hat bouncing.