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Coconut Lollipops and Purple Shirts

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One dad's advice to his son on the eve of entering middle school.

students walking at school hallway
Scott Lenz: It is the night before school starts, and I am in bed with my son, Jaron, reading (for the nth time) "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." I get about two sentences in, and he points to the end of a paragraph and says, "Stop there -- I want to talk about school." He is about to enter 6th grade, and this is unprecedented, so I stop reading.

"So what do you want to talk about?"

"I'm anxious."

"What are you anxious about?"

"Seeing everybody."

"Anybody in particular?"

"No -- actually, seeing how tall everyone has gotten."

"Well, you have gotten tall too."

"Yeah, I know. Actually, I've seen a lot of the boys this summer and they haven't changed at all. Some of them look like they might have gotten smaller."

"You know who's really going to be taller, right?"

"The girls?"

"Yes. This is the point where they really start growing more than the boys."

"Once everyone sees everyone, then I won't feel so anxious."

"Just be yourself. Don't feel you have to be overly cool. Let things come to you. Don't go looking for things. Don't feel like you have to see and talk to everyone. Just be respectful and respected. Listen to your teachers and do your best work -- that's the most important thing."

"I thought the most important thing was to have fun."

"OK, that too. And don't tell your secrets to everyone."

"Just people I trust."

"You need to find out who you can trust first. Give them a trick secret. Tell someone you like coconut lollipops and purple shirts -- things that are on the edge but not totally geekward. If you hear the next day that 'Jaron likes coconut lollipops and purple shirts,' then you know not to trust that person."

"Ah ha."

"And speaking of geeks, if a bunch of kids are ganging up on a geek, even if you feel the same way, you don't have to join in. That kid can't help being a geek -- but you can certainly help being an asshole. Got it?"

"OK. There's really only one geek in the class anyway."

"Not the point."

"I'm probably the only one who's going to be anxious."

"Nonsense. Even the kid who thinks he or she is the coolest one in the class is going to be anxious."

"How do you know?"

"Because I went to school too."

"You guys all talked about how anxious you were?"

"Of course not -- you will not find out anything about how any of your classmates really felt about anything until you go to your 20-year reunion -- and then everyone will tell you they were feeling exactly the same way you were about everything, and you will say, 'Gee, it would have been nice to know that then,' and they'll say -- "

"Um, dad?"

"What?"

"Can we go back to reading the book now?"

"Sure. Just remember, coconut lollipops and purple shirts."

"Yeah, OK."


next: Tisha Campbell-Martin Welcomes Second Son
13 comments so far | Post a comment now
Katie September 9, 2009, 6:56 PM

I liked this!

Coral September 10, 2009, 1:11 PM

Harry Potter- geek

Pamela September 10, 2009, 1:20 PM

Great advice! Thanks for sharing…

Karen September 10, 2009, 6:23 PM

Nice piece. Everyone is nervous the first day of school…even the long-term teachers…

Doug September 10, 2009, 10:01 PM

Um, HP makes out with gorgeous chicks and slays evil with the flick of a wrist … NOT a geek.

Breena September 11, 2009, 1:54 PM

can’t wait to share this with my new middle schooler!

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Steven78 November 30, 2010, 1:15 PM

Wow this is an awesome conversation here. The most important thing entering new school is to have amazing clothing. If you have it - everything will be all right because people are always looking at first thing that see in you. Thanks for the nice article here by the way!

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