Published on February 14th, 2014 | by Malaina Poore


MALAINA POORE Interviews Her Kids About Middle School

I have two kids in middle school. Go ahead and feel sorry for them, and for me.

Isis is 13 and precocious. I wanted to homeschool this year but honestly we just don’t have the resources to keep things from becoming a broken down one woman show. She is already smarter than I am. I drop her off at the public school each morning looking pretty sorry. I know that she feels tortured by girls in Ugg boots and mini-skirts talking about how much money their clothes cost. She wishes school was more about learning from books – no iPods, no computers, no group projects. This goes against the most current research and wisdom on how to engage pre-teens. In theory it is a time of inner exploration and concern for your social life about all else. Isis is a fierce cookie and a total anomaly.

Llyr, 11, goes to a county charter school and really digs it. It’s the sort of place where the staff actually has time to deal with the emotions and hijinks that occur during the tragic/thrilling/hormonal tween years. Llyr is really into girls (one at a time) but he has always been into girls. He wears hoodies and t-shirts with sarcastic sayings and stinky skate shoes. He still talks to me and therefore I love him in a way that borders on disgusting. (The mother/son bond is a trip. It cannot be controlled.)


My own recollection of the Jr. High years is pretty rough. If it were a film it would have been directed by Larry Clark. I actually think I was still processing it well into my 30’s (I was still having fantasies about attacking my tormentors like a rabid dog, sometimes accidentally during lovingkindness meditation). I’ve tried the best I can to ease the pain for my kids but I can see now that so much of the confusion is internal and therefore cannot be escaped. The tween years are meant to be endured.

Today we stayed home from school for a snow day that never snowed. This happens all the time in Virgina. We watched a quirky black and white movie about a kid who runs away to Coney Island and eats a bunch of smacks and sells glass bottles from the beach for deposit money. Isis thought he was cute but Llyr says there is no such thing as a cute kid. I cooked up some oyster mushrooms that we grew on the counter and pasta with butter and parmesan and roasted cauliflower that only one kid liked. I sit around in the living room with them, trying to force family time.

I asked the kids to tell me about middle school in six words.


Isis: A horrible place I’m stuck at. (She counted this on her fingers.)

Llyr: Kiss-Fun-Suspensions not the funnest.

Me: What is the best thing about school?

Isis: The extremely limited amount of learning that actually gets done.

Llyr: Girls.

Me: Worst thing?

Isis: The stereotypical and rude middle schoolers that go to my school.

Llyr: Enemies.

Any free advice for other kids your age?

Isis: Don’t expect to learn or not learn or to have friends or not have friends. Be ready to go either way.

Llyr: Be weird if you want to – it just might not work out.


Me: Is it different than you thought it would be?

Isis: I guess I thought it would be less horrible than it turned out to be.

Llyr: Definitely. I thought it would be like elementary school but then it turned out to be awesome.

Me: What do you think makes someone want to work in a Jr High?

Isis: Because it was horrible for them and they want to make it better for other people.

Llyr: They enjoy kids and that’s the job they got offered.

Me: Do you think middle school was different when I was a kid, twenty years ago?

Isis: Yeah!

Llyr: Yeah!

Isis: I mean, for you in particular, you were someplace different. And there are academic advancements. History is always happening. You weren’t learning about Obama. We are always finding out new things in science. There is the social media and online bullying. Kids get more exposure to things so we probably talk about different things.


Llyr: The kids didn’t get as big of a say in things. Like at school, if you say, “this person called me an asshole,” the teacher will actually do something.

Me: Would you have been friends with me, if I knew you in middle school?

Isis: No. I don’t think I would dislike you but I doubt I would be friends with you.

Llyr: I don’t know how you acted back then. Depends.

Isis: If you liked dating random guys he probably would.

Llyr: Isis, stop.

Me: If you weren’t in school all day, what would you be doing?

Llyr: Going a friend’s house. Eating. Sleeping.

Isis: I’d probably have more of a business going. Just selling stuff. I’d probably be smarter too.

Llyr: What?! You’d be smarter? The internet wouldn’t even be around if there wasn’t school!

Isis: I bet if I wasn’t at school there would there would still be internet.

Llyr: Steve Jobs! Bill Gates! They went to school!

Isis: I don’t think you need to know a single thing about the Civil War to make a computer.

Llyr: You’re such an ultreceardarian. (This is a new vocabulary word around here. Spellcheck cannot place it. According to Isis it means “someone who loves to disagree.”) You know one thing that most people learn in school that you obviously didn’t? How to just accept things that you don’t like. You know you are wrong right now.

Isis: If I knew I was wrong I would shut up.

Isis gets right up in Llyr’s face with her arms splayed out with the look of “now what?” on her face. Llyr asks if I can please make her stop. They splinter apart, one with a smug grin and one behind a slamming door. Isis lets me know that I don’t need to be rude to her all the time and I can’t even think of what I’ve done that is rude at all. I just go to bed at nine o’clock at night. Isis comes into my dark room and hugs me for a long time. Her hair smells like bananas.

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About the Author

Malaina Poore is a mama, writer and creator of altered books. Her work has been published in “The Journal for Participatory Medicine”, “Social Work in Education” and “My Hearts First Steps” and a few other odd places. Currently she works as a freelance flim flam woman.

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