FRESH GIGGLES That Elementary School Bond Maude Apatow

I have been attending my school since kindergarten. My elementary school is more about teaching children to care and be kind to each other than actual schoolwork. All 52 of us in the grade had a very special bond. Most of the parents were very involved with the school. They would come several times a month to serve hot lunch, teach art class, garden and do special presentations for their child’s class. There would be class parties and parent coffees frequently, which of course lead to everyone being very close. Graduating 5th grade was a big deal. It would mean leaving the lower campus and heading up to the middle school/high school grounds. But the one thing that we were all scared of the most were the new kids. In 6th grade, there would be an additional 30 (or so) children added to our grade and that was Aa big deal, especially for me.

In third grade, my uncle let me watch the movie Rent, which eventually led to a big drugs and alcohol conversation. I’m not sure if my dad meant to but he scared me so badly, I would have periods of time over the next two years where I would just start crying out of the blue in fear of my friends doing drugs and dying. What he did was name off a list – I don’t even know how long – of all his friends who had had a drug or alcohol problem and passed away. It was too much for a 9-year-old to handle. When I received the news about the new kids, I thought they would all be doing drugs and bad things and that is what scared me the most about moving up into middle school. I would cry a lot in fear of these new kids influencing my friends.

In 6th grade, we were lucky. There wasn’t one kid who was bad in any way. They all fit in perfectly and barely threw off the dynamics built over that six-year period of elementary school. The only thing that bothered me about the new kids was that it seemed they were all smarter than us. At their schools, instead of focusing on life lessons they focused on schoolwork. They also had just a different, tougher vibe but those things were just small things that did not really matter.

Then, there was 7th grade.  This time there were 40 more kids and it did destroy our perfect dynamics. They came in, separated friendships and formed new groups. I developed the reputation of the awkward, slightly OCD, preppy, motherly, nerd who new barely new anything about being a “regular teen”. The sad thing was, my friends all separated and went to different groups so I was stuck alone. The good thing was, the relationship with my 52 classmates from elementary school hadn’t completely died.

While currently being in an awkward place socially, I value and depend on these relationships. But then there is also my weakness of being a terrible conversation starter, which makes things a little more difficult. Walking to Latin class four times a week was a great opportunity to catch up with my long time pals. The walk was just long enough to carry on a perfect conversation. Most of the time I would just end up walking right behind my first grade BFF, thinking of how to start the conversation, and never actually saying anything. Throughout the year, there were many days where I had succeeded, and ended up having casual interactions with my classmates. By the end of the year, I had found a solid group of kids who were equally as confused as I was.

Image via TopNews.in

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  1. i totally know how awkward it feels :\

  2. This is all of my thoughts thrown together. I can TOTALLY relate. However, your 7th Grade was the equivalent of my 6th grade. I went from 62 kids in one grade to 135, in a matter of one summer. Hello, culture shock! People were constantly fighting, breaking up groups, forming new ones, and destroying friendships. However, I did keep that bond with my elementary school friends, and we’re still close today. :)

  3. Maude, you are just so awesome. Unfortunately, when I was around your age, my friends did get into drugs, something I didn’t think would ever happen. Sometimes it’s good to be paranoid about those kinds of things. Also, you’ll find the “awkward” confused people are the best to be around :)

  4. When I was in sixth grade, the group of friends I had been with since third grade got together and told me that they didn’t want me to hang out with them anymore. I spent the rest of the week crying in the library during lunchtime. The next Monday, I went up to some girls that I knew from other classes and asked them if I could have lunch with them. They were incredibly welcoming and we stayed friends until the end of 8th grade, when some of them moved away, and the rest of us had kind of started hanging out with other groups. Middle school is pretty brutal, and kids don’t know how hurtful they can be. I hope things will get better for you, and you’ll be able to build a solid group of friends you can depend on. :-)

  5. Middle school is always that weird and scary transition point. That’s why it’s there I think. However, even though it was scary and awful and hard, I now find how necessary it was. Had I stayed such close friends with my elementary peeps, I would not be the rad person I love today. Being the awkward theater girl ended up working for me and my taste of social life. Those people from high school are still my best friends. For life. Middle school is yucky. High school, stupid tough. Life after high school, you take the best parts with you. Your a down chick and anyone who gets to know you is just the luckiest person. Thank you for such a lovely and honest piece. You are a great writer.

  6. You were very fortunate to have that bond so early in life. I was awkward and did not have those bonds until 6th grade. That’s when I met my best friend, and we are now in our mid-thirties and still best friends! But I loved middle school despite all of the confusion and drama. I loved it so much that I now teach 7th graders. Hopefully I help them to get through that time a little easier. Thanks for the beautiful article!

  7. aw geeze – my sixth grade year, Eminem and Avril Lavigne happen. Needless to say, my transition from Normal Pre-Pubescent 10 year old to Goth-Punk 11 year old was RATHER PAINFUL.
    Just don’t chop off all your hair and dye it pink, dealsies? It might seem like a way of saying “I don’t care what y’all haters think!” at the time, but in reality it just makes it that much more obvious that you do care. Also, if you are like me and still look like you are eight, chopping off your hair creates an awkwardly androgynous situation.

  8. I was one of the “other” kids in middle school. I went from a large public elementary school where you only knew the kids in your own classroom, to a fairly small private middle school where most of the kids already knew everyone else. I was terrified about making all new friends. Fast forward 15 years and I am STILL good friends with the awesome girl who I met on orientation day at my new middle school.

  9. I had the same fears about my friends doing drugs, but it was due to the “Just Say No” program that was in heavy rotation at the time, and finding out a lot of musicians I admired died from overdoses or some other drug induced fate. Just remember that everyone has their vices and nobody’s perfect, don’t hold the past against anyone, but don’t let anyone’s present addictions bring you down either. Like these other folks have been saying, just look out for #1 and remember if you are feeling awkward, chances are someone else is feeling just as awkward and thinks it’s their fault.

  10. I don’t even remember who my friends were in middle school. It’s the time when most kids decide to be extremely annoying or super skanks in order to be popular. Stay true to who you are and your real friends will emerge.

  11. You must be such a caring person. Can’t remember myself feeling anything like this about my friends. Maybe about my little brother.
    That’s so good to know people like you exist.

  12. what a great post! it made me think a lot about how i was a few years ago. i spent most of my high school years feeling awkward as well, and having the hardest time starting up conversations with people i didn´t know that well. eventually though, college came, and i met people so interesting and who i could realate to so much, that i felt like i was getting to know a whole other side of me. so hang in there, it just might be these confused kids who wind up being your best friends in 10 years! :)

  13. Beautifully put. The best thing that changes from Middle School to adult-hood is that as you grow older, you become admired for your individuality. Your introspection, motherly tendencies and even your “nerdiness” will be seen as what makes you special, instead of awkward. But the secret is…you already are! Don’t wait until you’re an adult to appreciate that, you can rock it now.

  14. Maude, you are so endearing. I’m already a big fan of you after seeing you and your sister in Knocked Up – but after reading this… wow! Your level of maturity is applause-worthy :) Your parents, Leslie and Judd must be so proud.

    I just want you to know that you are not alone in feeling awkward. Just about everyone goes through an awkward phase, ESPECIALLY in the transition from elementary to middle school, and anyone who tells you differently is most likely lying ;)

    The great thing about being awkward is that you can embrace it.. I learned to and it’s what makes me, me today. One of the greatest quotes I have ever read that has gotten me through the ups and downs of growing up, was by Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

    I also grew up with the same group of friends from kindergarten till 6th grade. Once middle school hit, our “group” got split up as a lot of us went to different middle schools so our friendships definitely deteriorated. Then, once high school hit – a ton of my friendships deteriorated again as only a small group of the same people (that I’ve known since my elementary school days) were going to the same high school as me..

    It’s terrifying trying to make new friendships, but as long as you stick to who you are and what you believe in – no one can take that away from you.

  15. Cherish that awkwardness — it makes you special. Don’t worry about being able to easily start conversations — the skill will evolve. And, if I may, you have talent, which is obvious from your writing. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.

  16. “But then there is also my weakness of being a terrible conversation starter, which makes things a little more difficult”…….. WoW this is totally me!!!! But I think it was because I always did wanted to HAVE a conversation, and blamed myself if there was some silence!!!! well it’s not the case right now!!! I just DON’t CARE!!! and if there is nothing to say, I can just go!!! =D……….. Great article by the way, and I loved your school!!! ;)

  17. You may believe that you are “awkward,” but I bet most people view you as incredibly talented, intelligent, and beautiful. That’s my perception of you :) I love that you remained loyal to your character throughout the changes in your life.

  18. Very nice article! I wish I had gone to a school like that, where kindness is taught, instead of treating you like robots.

  19. I went to school with the same kids kindergarden to eigth grade, and my group of friends kind of fell apart once we got to high school. When I was about to head to college three years ago, I reconnected with all my old friends via facebook, and now we make an effort to hang out a couple times a year. While things may seem awkward now (because they are) it works out in the end. In fact, we all had dinner Wednesday and reminisced about how awkward we were (especially in regards to boys haha), and it was one of the best times I had in a while.

    • How funny! I am the exact same way. Considering the many cons of social media nowadays, a pro for me is that a really big chunk of my friends on Facebook consist of people that I grew up with from elementary school till middle school. Those friendships are like gold to me :)

  20. everyone is awkward in seventh grade! i spent most of middle school growing out an ill-conceived bowl cut sooo…

    hang in there!