Our house has become a place where more than a few middle schoolers hang out. We have a big, playful dog, old furniture, a couple of coldly glaring cats, and lots of snacks, so it seems right that they show up as much as they do. Plus, I used to teach middle school (I actually once requested a transfer from high school to middle school -- prompting my principal to ask me if I'd had a recent psych eval), so I like this age group. That being said, I forgot that I have always been on the side of the desk where they had to hold back, at least to a certain degree. I was, after all, their English teacher, and they would only tell me so much about disliking their stepmother or how they wanted to ditch their best friend from elementary school. I had never sat down with them as a Mom until recently. I did not realize how I had gotten so accustomed to the dull boundaries of adult conversation until yesterday afternoon when Kate and Matt plopped down next to me on the sofa.
"I like coming here," Kate told me, "my house is so boring 'cause my mom sleeps in the afternoons. She's on Xanax and it's like way too strong for her."
"Oh," I said, moving a magazine that didn't need to be moved, "that's good then. That you have a place to come."
Kate nodded. "It's cause of my stepfather," Kate continued, "my mom needs the Xanax 'cause he's drunk all the time."
"Not all the time,' Matt interjected.
"Right. But a lot." They both laughed. "I think she's going to divorce him."
"Probably," Matt agreed, "is there more root beer?"
"Yeah, I want some, too," Kate smiled.
While pouring their root beer, I remembered: one beauty of this age is that weird poise they possess, the balance they maintain between an awareness of adult issues and wanting more root beer.