Jane Roper

Writer. Blogger. Hater of Olives.

Put ’em in a pickle jar

Exhibit A.

Exhibit A.

I remember people, mostly older women, I think, saying that when I was a kid: “I wish I could put you in a pickle jar!” I always pictured one of those pickled people jars (Exhibit A), which I guess were big around the time people said it, that being the mid 80s. That seemed like a weird thing to wish on a kid.

Of course, they meant they wanted to put me in a pickle jar so I couldn’t grow up. Also a weird thing to wish on a kid, but at least there was a rationale.

I actually said it to Elsa the other day.  I am now officially an old woman from the 1980s. Nice to meet you!

I think it was after she said for the upteenth time in several weeks that she’s going to ask Santa for a Segway. I mean, this kind of statement is not going to be issued for much longer, and I absolutely relish the innocent absurdity of it. Pickle relish.

Likewise, it won’t be much longer that the girls will deign to play frisbee — or something resembling it, involving flinging a piece of plastic around, frequently onto the street or into our neighbors’ cars — with us after dinner, or pogo stick in the driveway, or ask me to draw a picture with their name in bubble letters and a family of cats underneath it, as Clio did the other night. (Long story.)

But yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve lamented the growing up of my children puh-lenty here, so I won’t belabor the point. Here’s the thing that’s magnifying the melancholy for me lately, though: We recently found out that there’s a very, very good chance that the schools in town are going to move the fifth graders up into the middle school because of elementary school overcrowding — starting with the girls’ class, in 2017.

(Release arrow, cut to me with arrow through heart, bleeding, moaning, expiring on the ground in agony.)

Which means that next year will be their last, not second-to-last, year in elementary school. And a mere year and three months from now, they will be walking the halls with big, pimply, braces-wearing, texting, French kissing middle schoolers.  PLUS, the middle school is adjacent to and shares some facilities with the high school, which means they’ll also be around…shudder…teenagers. Boys who shave and drive cars and  fight with knives. Girls who drink and get pregnant and date Marines.

Yes, that’s right, our high school is the one from Grease.

I’m sure there will be some effort to keep the fifth graders separate from those horrid beings, and maybe they’ll even still have something resembling recess. And on the upside — a pretty major upside, actually — the middle school is a ten-minute walk from our house, so we won’t have to drop off and pick them up every day.

That’s pretty much the only advantage I can think of, though. I worry in particular about Clio, who has always been a little young for her age. (Although she is definitely exhibiting some serious tween characteristics: First thing she said when I mentioned the middle school thing was: “You said we could get a phone in middle school. So does that mean we can get a phone in fifth grade?” And she keeps telling me I should get Snapchat on my phone. Why? And how does she even know about Snapchat?)

But I know, I know. They’ll be fine. And fifth graders really do seem different from the rest of elementary school kids  anyway. I remember feeling that way when I was in fifth grade. (The first boy-girl party, the first glimpses of  bras on girls, the gradual eschewing of the playground equipment….)

And most middle- and high-schoolers, especially in our Mayberry of a town,  are way more Sandy than Rizzo.  Plus, they’re actually teenagers, as opposed to people in their late twenties playing teenagers. (I swear, that movie traumatized an entire generation of kids who thought that that was what high school looked like.) They may even feel protective of the fifth graders, in some way. Right?

Still. I wish I could keep them in the pickle jar of elementary school just a wee bit longer. Things are going fast enough as it is.





  1. Lovely post. My town had Jr. High for 7&8, but sometime since I was in it, switched to middle school for 5-8. Terrifies me, and my oldest isn’t starting K till the fall yet.

  2. Nice to see you posting! There’s a chance (not confirmed, bc the wheels move sloowly) that my soon-to-be 5th-grader may be offered a chance to take some 7th-grade classes, on account of rampant geekiness. But … this is a kid whose favorite seat in the house is my lap. Who puts on fake medieval armor and swordfights for hours. Because that’s what academically advanced kids are like. They’re nerds and geeks and dorks. Life is terrifying. And those songs from Grease can get stuck in your head for hours.

  3. Jane, If you put them in a pickle jar, the pickle juice odor will stain them as “uncool.” This will likely deter older guys with greasy hair donned in leather from strolling your daughters around any carnival grounds or inviting them out to drag races. In the cafeteria they’ll be forced to sit with others who are cursed with obscene smelling food packed by mothers who are messing with their social currency and laughing ghoulishly.

    So then pickle jar = awesome plan!

  4. All three of my kids are “moving up” next year. In Montessori you stay in a mixed age classroom for three years, so my son is moving up to an upper elementary classroom, my middle child is moving into the adolescent program, and my oldest is starting high school. When I visit my brother with his one-year-old baby it’s such a distant parenting place to me now. Why does it all seem to be going even faster now?

    Anyway, lovely post. Always happy to see you’re blogging!

  5. When I was younger, part of the admonition to not smoke was that it would “stunt your growth.” With how fast our twins are growing—they’ll be in HIGH SCHOOL next year—I am quite tempted to encourage them to smoke.

    Perhaps a pickle jar is healthier…. 😉

    BTW, our two have not gotten cell phones yet (“M-o-o-o-m, we are the ONLY ones…” 😉 ). They will in high school, so if you’re declared repressive if you decline in 5th grade, feel free to cite me, The Wicked Witch of the South.

    Glad you’re blogging again, Jane!

  6. I followed you when my now 11 year old was in treatment for ALL (his was lymphoma, not leukemia, but same diff) and your Clio was a year ahead in her treatment. You were my “What To Expect When You’re Not Expecting Cancer” book. You really helped me. So maybe I can return the favor? I had to send my boy to middle school for 5th grade as well. I felt borderline hysterical about it. He had a lot of complications from his treatment, including septic shock and ARDS, so he missed SO MUCH school. And he has autism, so he’s already behind socially. But so far middle school has been wonderful. He is spreading his wings! He is growing and maturing and succeeding! I’m almost embarrassed by how against it I was. I even begged to have him held back, one more year in the safe, small, predictable elementary school he attended for six years. I now concede middle school has been a wonderful step up for him. I hope it will be for your girls, too.

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