Yesterday, 10 6th-grade girls filled my house to make holiday cookies, decorate them with frosting and colorful edible beads and sprinkles, watch a movie and eat pizza. The volume level rose, with high-pitched squeals and giggles, and the energy increased, girls sliding across the floors in exclamatory glee.
Today, it’s 8 7th-graders, 3 girls and 5 boys, and there is a mellower vibe. They’re making Chanukah menorahs out of wood and pipe cleaners, bottle caps and glass tiles, on a Jewish-themed blue tablecloth. My son carefully selected the background music – the a cappella station from yesterday was just too jingly, he thought, and so we have Pharrell on Pandora.
Two boys have already migrated into the family room – enough of the art time. Here come two more. They’re done with being creative. The female energy stays in the dining room, huddled in a corner.
Recalling the middle school parties I attended – in basements on weekend nights, M&M’s in giant bowls and popcorn and chips. Soda and punch, no parents dared to peek downstairs, and the lights dimmed darker as the night wore on.
It seemed like every weekend someone else had a party, and we migrated from house to house, sharing secrets and crushes and giggling in corners, wondering if the one we liked liked us back.
My children do this, too, now, and in a way they are more eyes-open to the real world. But in some very great and surprising ways, they are more innocent than we were at their ages.
Yes, they are besotted with technology and always in contact with everyone they know. Photos of them in all sorts of poses and expressions float around the cybersphere in fantastic time, never to be retracted, sometimes offering them up to trouble.
But I can tell you that my middle-schoolers aren’t as experimental as we were, and I’ll just leave it at that. My son’s party started today with an art project, something I doubt I would have consented to in my 7th grade glory.
There is a rich sense of connection and community among kids today. For all the bullying and cyber-talking and in-touch-ness of their generation, they are also wishful and sweet.
I delivered pizza just now to the basement group watching Maleficent on the couch. The girls huddle together, the boys around them but not quite with them. Separation continues, until it doesn’t, and we’re not there yet.
I watch the quirky navigation between the genders, the wondering, the yearning, the shy does-he/she-like-me-back, and when I ask, what if they do, what does that mean, the kids just look back red-faced and sweetly embarrassed and say, “I don’t know.”
Because all it means is that you’re liked and you can claim another ally in this world. Nothing more, nothing less.
When I think of all the trappings and tradeoffs of relationships, I think about how we muster up emotion for scenarios that don’t quite exist. So much of life’s interactions have nothing to do with core reality. And yet we ruminate and posit and dissect he-said-she-said as if everything is paramount.
The sun rises each day and it sets again. People come in and out of our lives. Relatives are given to us, and if they weren’t we may or may not choose them as friends. We make our best situations from what we are given.
We choose friends and then we release them when that phase ends, but some get to stay for good. We show our version of gratitude and love, and some people receive it as such, while others have no clue what we’re trying to say.
This dance of connection goes on the whole life long, for each of us, and I just hope that by the end, we start to get some things right, finding the peace and love we all yearn for and ultimately deserve.