This year my daughter will start Kindergarten. Which means I am naturally already having crippling anxiety over her first day of high school. You guys, WHAT THE HECK WAS HIGH SCHOOL?
I went to the principal’s office once. I asked him to repaint the bathroom stalls. People had written my name next to the word slut, and I didn’t appreciate the correlation, even if it was in cursive. I didn’t kiss a boy till I was 16 years old. But that didn’t matter in high school. Because what you actually did, never mattered as much as the stories people told. Thank God there wasn’t a Facebook in 2003. None of us would pass any HR search. I don’t want Halloween 2004 on my digital footprint.
Surviving high school, was like being tossed into some high pressure social experiment where everyone hates everyone, and no one eats their lunch. Seriously, why didn’t we ever eat our lunch? You knew where you fit in the social hierarchy, based on the brand label on your t-shirt. The pecking order went from athletes to band camp with a lot of skate boards and pot smoker’s in-between.
At fourteen, I was terrified to be seen and equally as scared to go unnoticed. I was madly in love with a boy in my class. He was kind enough to share with me all the girls he was madly in love with, none of which ever happened to be me. In high school I spent most of my energy trying to look like everyone else. And while there were good times, and fun moments, nothing about those 4 years helped prepare me for the isolation and independence of college. #Thanksfornothinghighschool.
When I think back to every day moments of high school, I squirm at the thought of how casual sexual assault was. When a girl is 16 years old, she doesn’t even understand what sexual assault is. If Jimmy sticks his hands down your pants at a football game without permission, is that assault? Or was I just being a whore? Jimmy said I asked for it. And I don’t want to be dramatic.
Everyone had secrets. Bad grades, parent divorces, eating disorders, pretending you aren’t gay. It’s like you have an entire cafeteria of adolescents who are pretending they are normal, when no one knows what normal is. If you were lucky, you got a solid group of girlfriends that you could treat everyone else like crap with before they could target you. There was also a lot of peer pressure to drink this or smoke that, or run up and down Hannah’s street naked because her parents are out of town and it’s the perfect night for a bon fire and horrible choices.
I used to tell people I loved high school. But now that I have this 5-year-old angel entering kindergarten, I don’t want her anywhere near it. I’m praying we can pull a Doogie Howser and just skip right past it. I don’t want her to have to see her name in black marker when she pees. I don’t want her to think that when a boy gropes you, you just play dead. I don’t want my daughter to be mean to kids who are already hanging on by a thread themselves. I need her to know who she is whether she makes the volleyball team or not. I’ll purchase her a clarinet and she’ll be running drills at band camp if it keeps her off the radar of creepy Chris.
I am not sure how to raise a daughter who can survive high school. My parents were great. Beacons of light and wisdom. I swallowed affirmations like rock candy and I still barely made it out alive. I want my daughter to be smarter than I was (low bar), and so I am starting now.
When she starts kindergarten, I am going to remind her to always share her crayons. When she walks into that lunch room, I am going to tell her to sit with someone who looks alone. And when she is ready for junior high, I’m going to ask her what she understands about sex. I can’t let the school system, or the social order, be the loudest voice in teaching my daughter how she can survive high school. I want her to punch Jimmy in his predator face, and then take a nice hard blow on her rape whistle.
Life is going to come at us fast y’all. I’m not waiting ten years to prepare her for the crap-fest she is about to enter. These tiny angels apparently go to kindergarten. Which means we have less than a decade to prepare them for a social experiment. And we need to know that we did our best.
One day, our kids will be in high school. We barely survived that place ourselves. So I am stacking up on prayers now.
Heather Thompson Day is an Assistant Professor of Communication at Andrews University. She is the author of 5 Christian books including Life After Eden, available now.
You can follow Heather on IG at HeatherThompsonDay
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