Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Boys of Summer

School started yesterday and, to quote a far better writer than myself, "the sun for sorrow did not show his head."

The bad news was that it was raining. The good news was that it was raining. You see, because it was raining my daughter actually agreed to have me drive her to the middle school. These days, she and a couple of friends walk together every morning. Mothers — even the most well-meaning of us — are absolutely, positively, quite definitely not invited.

That's okay. I have lots of other things to do. (Sniff.)

Like so many Septembers past, my daughter was weighed down with backpack and lunchbox, binders and pencils, gym clothes and sneakers. She chose a striped top from American Eagle Outfitters ($10 at their Times Square flagship store — I love NY!), cargo capris and her new Converse All Stars. I thought she looked especially cute, but I didn't dare say anything. My doing so would have guaranteed a change of heart — and a change of clothes.

Before we left, I had to shoot a quick "first day of school" picture for the grandmothers. Until this year, said picture was always taken on the front steps of whatever school my little supermodel was attending. This year? "Hell to the no!" I was lucky to get a 30-second session on the relative privacy of our front porch. She did smile at the last minute though, albeit with rather unamused tolerance. (And, did I mention she looked really cute?)

We drove the quick mile to school and took our place in the line of cars snaking around the building to the official drop-off location behind. I'm proud to report that I was admirably reserved. No kiss "good-bye," no waving, no affectionate endearments called out as she trudged down the path to the school's back door. I was the very model of maternal self-restraint.

As I pulled out into the queue of parents leaving the property I noticed something different. I recognized several of the girls, but who were all these teenage boys? Tall, broad-shouldered, in several cases zitty. These were not the little boys of seventh grade. These were — gasp! — young men.

What happened?

It was as though all of the male members of the eighth grade had hit puberty en masse. The entire class had reached some tween testosterone tipping point.

As I looked closer, I realized I did know some of these strange new people. I spotted a couple of my daughter's boy friends (not to be confused with boyfriends, bien sur). I recognized a few of the boys who had been in the advertising elective I taught in sixth grade. For the past three years or so, the girls have all grown up and filled out, while their counterparts have stayed ... well ... pretty much the same. For a while there, it seemed like the girls were a bunch of college co-eds, babysitting their male classmates.

From what I saw yesterday, the times they are a-changing!

Until now, when I've heard about girls in my daughter's class "dating" boys in my daughter's class, I've thought it was rather silly. The girls, many in makeup and heels already, certainly looked ready for a night on the town. But, the boys? Not so much. Even pressed and dressed for picture day, they looked like a pack of rumpled Cub Scouts.

Other than one sweet crush (his, not hers) and a little bar mitzvah dancing, my daughter hasn't exactly jumped into the swinging singles scene. She and her friends have been known to tease boys on Facebook, but I don't worry about it. (I think it's akin to our making crank phone calls in the 70s.) After all, I've always reassured myself, how much trouble can she really get into with these little little boys?

Okay, it's a whole new ballgame. Suddenly these little boys I've known since preschool are not just taller than my daughter; they're taller than me. Their voices are changing. They're standing up straighter. Is that the slightest shadow of a mustache hovering above their upper lip? Oh my!

Fasten your seatbelts; it's going to be a bumpy year!

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