Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chaperoning Middle School Dances

I once chaperoned a middle school dance.  If middle school is the most awkward point in life (which I strongly argue is the case), then a middle school dance is the pinnacle, the zenith, the apex of awkwardness. When you cram a large number of dressed up, perfumed, hormonal, immature adolescents into a dimly lit cafeteria, everything that follows is bound to be painful to watch.

At this particular dance the awkwardness was so encompassing that it spread onto me, the young, unassuming chaperone. As I made my rounds around the dance floor, I listened as one of the deejays (two men going by the unpromising aliases Chew Dog and Hammie) cued “I Had the Time of My Life” and snagged the microphone to ask someone in the crowd to dance. The entire seventh and eighth grade population pivoted their heads toward the would-be dance partner. Toward me. I looked over my shoulder, thinking he was singling out some other poor soul, but no. In case I still doubted, someone shined a light on me.

The students, who were distracted from thinking about their adolescent selves for this one brief moment, suddenly wanted nothing more than for me to dance with Chew Dog. Or Hammie. Whoever he was.

I quickly realized that there’s no graceful way to decline this type of public invitation. So I did it quite clumsily – shaking my head and blushing, waving my hands no thanks, and finally holding up my left hand and pointing toward my wedding band. And then I did what every girl does when faced with an awkward situation during a middle school dance.

I retreated to the girls’ bathroom.

In one stall there was a girl crying. (Since the dawn of middle school dances, there has yet to be a dance without at least one girl crying in the bathroom.)

I never did learn what caused her tears. Perhaps she didn’t get to dance with the boy she liked. Perhaps her best friend did. But the one thing I do remember was her answer when I asked if she was okay.

“I’m going to be fine,” she said in between sobs.

Clearly, she was not fine. Her mascara was running, her cheeks were tear stained, and her hands clutched balled-up paper towels that she was using as Kleenex. Yet, in her own words, she was going to be fine.

There was something about her declaration that stood out to me then and still stands out now, seven years later. She seemed to know that words have power. (Just see Proverbs 18:21.)

Words have so much power that we often start our morning by making a bold proclamation. We have the girls repeat it with us, reciting in unison this simple sentence: “Today is going to be a good day.”

I’ve declared this sentence when I’ve had pounding headaches, when the girls are fighting, and when a child is screaming from time out. I’ve made this declaration on days when I’m absolutely miserable – days when I’d much rather remain miserable, why thank you – since these are the days when I need it the most.

I’m determined to call good days into existence, to teach my children and remind myself that we often can control how a day will go simply by controlling how we react to it.

One morning weeks ago I was nearly in tears as the girls misbehaved, quite positive that I had done nothing right in my five years of motherhood. More out of threatening than out of faith, I stated, “There will be a day in this household when everyone, I mean everyone, is nice to each other!”

Reese looked at me in earnest. “But does it have to be today?”

That kid.

I’ll admit, her honesty caused me to crack a smile, but that morning also made me question if anything is sticking.  With a heavy heart, I wondered whether my children are internalizing the values and lessons that we’ve been teaching, demonstrating, and praying for.

How amazing, then, when Brooke was fussing at the breakfast table the other day and I overheard Reese tell her, “Brooke, repeat after me. ‘Today is going to be a good day.’ Come on, Brookey, say it. It’s going to be a good day.”

Oh yes, I’ll second that. It’s going to be a good day.

2 comments:

  1. As I start my new job (in a Wheeling, WV high school) I will remember to declare "Today is going to be a good day!" Hopefully I won't have to chaperon any dances! Oh... I remember Chewdog and Hammie! Hahaha!

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  2. I hope that your new job goes well and that there are many good days ahead for you, Stephanie!

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