The car line creeps slowly up the street by the middle school in the afternoon, giving me ample opportunity to observe middle school springtime society in full swing. The trees are green, the grass is lush, and the energy level is high.
The first group of kids hanging out in small clumps are the eighth graders. There are lots of couples, and the flirting is intense enough I can feel the hormone surges from inside my car. Then there are the groups of girls giggling and the boys leaned against the building looking cool.
Next, I drive past the 6th grade boys. They have laid claim to the wide open field and a football. They are oblivious to the romances being played out around them. There are only tackles to be made and a ball to possess. Girls just get in the way of the important things in life.
Against the main building I like to watch the 7th grade boys. These are the kids in transition. They are too cool to play football out front, but I do see them doing crazy things like bush diving. The boys back up, run at full force, and fling themselves into the bushes. Then they act surprised to be injured. A few of the 7th grade boys at this time of year are starting to lean against the building and check out the 6th grade girls on the other side of the sidewalk.
The 6th grade girls are in herds. They completely ignore the boys. "They are just soooo immature." There is lots of giggling and the band girls have out their instruments playing around together.
As I watch the kids each afternoon, I remember those days of seeking to find myself. I remember trying to fit in and decide what sort of person I would become. I remember the strength of the strange emotions hitting me as hormones surged through my inexperienced body. I look at those kids in the afternoons, and realize that even though clothes are cooler and hair is flatter, really, life hasn't changed that much at all. As I drive by to pick up my two oldest, I try to remember how tough those years were and look and listen to my own children with a little more compassion and a little extra respect.