Junior High: The Place Innocence Goes to Die

February 22, 2013

The shocking truth of junior high is pretty brutal.  As a mother of a twelve-year-old boy in the sixth grade, I'm getting slapped in the face with how crude kids can really be.  My first reaction was to gasp in awe and think to myself, "It wasn't like that when I was his age!"  But the truth is, it was.

First let's clarify "junior high."  Most places consider junior high 7th and 8th grade.  Some places lump 6th in there and call it middle school.  Either way it's the 12, 13 and 14 year-olds that I'm talking about.  The age where our children physically (and mentally) leave the innocence of childhood and start their journey into adulthood. 

I'd like to tell you it's an awkward and hiccupy road until the dreaded years of high school. In some aspects I think its worse than the teen years, because it's the place innocence goes to die. 

Let me share with you some of the crude, explicit, and plain horrific things my son has shared with me since being the sixth grade.  WARNING: Extremely explicit. Easily offended should not read.

13yo  boy said to a girl on the bus, "Damn, you have a nice ass."
13yo boy told other boys on the bus (note: this boy has an older brother) "Get all your kissing in now while we are in junior high, so you'll be really good at sex by the time you get to high school."
13yo boy posted a picture of himself on instagram with a Hooters' girl and commented "Damn, look at the rack on that girl!"
13yo boy said to my son and his friends, "Do you suck your friends dick or does he suck yours?"
13yo boy said to my son on the playground, "Give me $10 and I'll suck your dick for an hour."
Another boy called some kid a "cunt." When I asked my son if he knew what that meant he said, "Slang word for gay people?"  I said, "No..." then proceeded to educate my son.  It was a very sad conversation, honestly.

Those are just a drop in the bucket of what my son has overheard/experienced.  Majority of these comments have come from 7th graders to the 6th graders. Maybe its a hazing for the "freshmen" of the middle school. For the most part I feel like these kids are just trying their puberty on for size, so to speak.  (I also think there's a serious lack of parenting going on too, more on that in my next post.) Curse words, girls,  and sex are like shiny new objects, seen and experienced through a new set of maturing eyes. 

I get what's going on with kids at that age.  They are trying to be cool. They think it makes them look mature. They are so desperately trying to shed their innocence that they latch onto the first "adult" thing they hear or see and run around showing everyone their shiny new object. The one kid above who said "dick" used that word profusely for weeks.

The reason why it feels so brutal is because of the abrupt transition from child to teen.  One year they are riding their bikes with friends, the next they're throwing around profanity like it's candy.

I'm wondering where books are to help kids transition though these years.  I'm sure there are bullying books but are the "real" enough but age appropriate?  Relatable enough for the child? Interesting enough for a pre-teen to want to read? I don't particularly think my kid is having a hard time adjusting because he has his father and I to talk this out with.  But what about the kids who don't feel they can talk to their parents about this?    

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  1. You're an awesome mom, Dana. It's great your son tells you this stuff. I know it's crazy and kind of sad, but I'm glad he trusts you enough to tell you the truth.

    1. Thank you, Ara. I hope this willingness to talk doesn't end anytime soon.

  2. My kids brought home some horrific bus stories. Their dad and I called their junior high years, the wasteland. Everything seemed to fall apart socially and academically. Best thing is to keep that dialogue open and help them navigate the ugly.

    1. "Navigate the ugly" is so true. I never freak-out when he tells me this stuff and I do my best to guide. It's crazy in junior high.

  3. In Scotland (and most of England) we don't have junior high - we start high school in Scotland when people are 11/12. I'd been to a small primary school - no more than 50 children for the total across 7 years - my year group had 8, and that was a big group - so it was kept a very nice safe, polite place. High school was not. I think a lot of it there was that people heard kids who were 16-18 in the same playground & on the same buses as them, and were influenced that way. It's sad, but at the time it was just, the way people were. Being someone who read a lot, I knew the words, but I got the impression a lot of people tossing words around didn't know what they were saying, which was so annoying! Sad to think about it all, but I don't know what people can actually do to change that.

    1. You know what they can do, Ailsa? Parent. I find a lot of these kids who are saying and doing these things on a regular basis aren't getting enough parenting. Don't get me wrong, kids screw up and make mistakes. My kid went around for about two weeks cursing and posting inappropriate stuff on instagram and when I found out, because I stalk my son, all hell broke loose and my son has done an amazing job cleaning up his act. Not to say he won't mess up again but at least I'm there to show him the right path.

  4. UGH. I KNOW. I am teaching middle school this year, and I CAN NOT BELIEVE what comes out of the mouths of some of these kids. It's horrible! I'm sorry your son has to deal with this...but, ugh, it's just the worst.


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