-Erika “starting early” Ray
My parents made sure we could handle change. No we didn’t move a hundred times during our childhood. They didn’t swap partners a million times either. We were just given change and didn’t have any other choice but to accept it. They rarely ever softened it either. It was change. Pure and simple. And one occasion my parents gave me the line that literally made me accept, deal, and welcome change.
I was young, but old enough. I was the normal sixth graders age, but almost a year younger than most. I had a summer birthday, so I had always been the youngest and the kid who never got to celebrate her birthday at school lunch. I remember they sat me down and explained that I was going to do sixth grade again at a different Catholic school. WHAT? Again. I failed? “No, we’re going to hold you back,” they said. Silly parents, that’s code for failed. That’s code for You Are Stupid. Especially to a SIXTH grader. Especially to all the sixth graders in my class. How was I going to go around to each one and explain that I’m not a dumb-dumb. That my parents truly care about my emotional maturity. While they were giving me the “emotional maturity” speech that’s the only question I was thinking about.
I knew it wasn’t because of my grades as I was in the higher learning classes. But I didn’t understand the maturity part. I don’t remember not being able to handle things as well as my other classmates. But maybe if I were more mature, I’d be able to see my flaws… They told me, I’d be the oldest in the class. Big deal. They told me, I’d get my license first when I got to high school. Who cares? I didn’t figure my parents were going to let me joyride with “babies”. But more importantly, I’d be able to make better tough decisions when they popped up throughout my entire life. I’d be older and wiser. Even at my young age, I didn’t figure a slightly older 15 year-old’s dumbass decision was any better than a younger 15 year-old’s decision.
I heard them, but didn’t understand. Imagine telling your 11-year-old girl, “You’re doing 6th grade again. At a new school.” I’m guessing even in your imagination, someone flipped out on you. Maybe even tossed a shoe (I didn’t). Now imagine that you live in a small town and you’re in Catholic school. That there are three Catholic schools, you’re at your second one (my parents hated the first one and we were only there a year), and you’ll start the third a year behind your friends. Catholic school are incestuous. Everyone knew everyone and you saw everyone on the bus, at sporting events, and fish fry’s. Me being an older sixth grader wasn’t going to make me more mature. Dealing with that fall-out of being held back in this small fish bowl would. I’d have to accept it and deal with it. Because as a 11-year-old, there would be fall-out my parents wouldn’t have to deal with. Of course I cried and didn’t get it, but there was no talking them out of it.
They ended the conversation with: Erika, life is about change. The sooner you learn how to handle it the easier your life will be.
Yes, wise words. Words I haven’t forgotten. Words that some people would read as harsh and absolutely were for a young girl to hear. But they’re true. Truth is rarely fluffy and pretty. Truth is raw. Like change, it is what it is. You can’t sugar-coat change with white lies. The truth of change was given to me early and that was probably better for my emotional maturity than learning about pre-Algebra again.
I started sixth grade again in the Fall. I had a few asshole boys ask why I was still in the sixth grade. I told them about emotional maturity and they said, “So you’re stupid?” I’m not sure if this is when my “I Could Give a Fuck” attitude popped up or when my Father’s “I Could Give a Fuck About Your Opinion” gene switched on. I didn’t say “Hi” to my old friends because I didn’t want to discuss it. I remember my Mom saying, “Oh there’s so-and-so. Say hi. Erika, say HI!” I didn’t. I couldn’t. But in the new school, I developed close friendships and very quickly it didn’t matter.
I can’t say if I handled my adolescence better because I was older than most kids. I think my parents’ guidance, rules, and love helped me handle things better. But what do I know? I was just a baby of a sixth grader… My parents made that decisions for a child who already had a healthy self-esteem. I’m not sure most kids would react the same. I’m not sure most kids would say it was the best decision their parents made. Maybe my parents knew I’d handle it well or maybe they just hoped for the best. For them it turned out well and taught their daughter a valuable lesson. Would I recommend holding back a sixth grader? Depends on the kid and probably not. Now it would be incredibly difficult for a child as the internet allows for less privacy. But I am a strong supporter of starting kids later. Being older can’t hurt. I do say that if you’re concerned, do it sooner than the sixth grade.
But their advice on change was spot-on. Learn to deal with it. You don’t have to relish and celebrate every Change that comes your way. Some changes are Assholes and Dickheads. But change is change. You can’t change it. Once it rolls in, things will be different. So learn how to deal with it. Look it in the eye. Say “What’s up.” And start to dance with it. Make it love you because you have no other choice.
Becks is holding his daycare blanket with his home blanket. They’ve met and it’s a huge change we’re all dealing with. One I didn’t count on, but we’re dancing with it. I’ve stepped on his toes a few times and he’s off beat. But we’re shaking it down.