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Help! I’m (almost) a high school parent!
Help! I’m (almost) a high school parent!
Scott Dunlop

Dear James,

You’ve just been accepted for high school next year. What a relief. The school didn’t mind that you don’t live within 100 metres of the place, and that your technology marks dipped a little with your last-minute building of a project the morning before the due-date. You’re heading for what could be some of the most memorable and challenging years of your life (so far).

My own opinion of high school was that it seemed like a 5-year sentence to a minimum security prison. Cycling to my doom each day, I’d duck behind the garage for a smoke before skulking into class with the tell-tale fumes of peppermint following me like a cloud.

I did make some friends, although it felt as though high school was a jigsaw picked up at a thrift shop, with pieces missing. There was a little bullying, so I became a master at avoiding the more aggressive kids. To me, it was just a means to an end: Finish it, so you can go about being an adult.

I wish I’d fitted in better.

James, you seem to be set on a more positive course. You’re academically solid and friendly, and enjoy sports. Your experience of the next 5 years will be very different to mine.

There were no cell phones when I was a kid. No internet. We had cassette tapes and videos. I know what a vinyl record looks like. I knew what it was like to sit on the (landline!) telephone talking to a girlfriend for hours, and how to pass notes to a girl at a different school via a neighbour. The notes said: S.W.A.K. and H.O.L.L.A.N.D. on the envelopes: Sealed With A Kiss and Hope Our Love Lasts And Never Dies. I learned how to ask a girl to dance at the disco, and how to watch TV until the test pattern came on.

I was a surfer, a punk and a skater, amongst other phases I’m happy to forget.

So many possibilities await you. I’ll be learning with you- learning how to follow (discreetly) your friendships, behaviour and online activity. I’ll have to learn your new teen language and how to read your moods. In a way, I’m heading to high school, too.

I guess when you were just a baby, smiling at the “where’s he, where’s he” hands-behind-the-face game, things seemed easier. Sure, we had some words when you learned how to say “no”, and we’ve both shed tears of frustration, but I hope we’re a team. I’m here to support you as much as you need me to, and, more than anything, I hope we can continue to communicate.

It’s scary for me, I don’t mind admitting. I’ve never been the parent of a high school kid before. They call the pre-school years the “formative years”, but I reckon you’re heading for the real formative years- half a decade of formation, exploration and growth, and, by the end of it all, you’ll be very close to being the adult you’ll always be.

James, I promise to be there for you, and to carry you through the tough times emotionally (you’re a little heavy for me to carry like a baby anymore!); together, we can make this high school thing work.

What do you think will be the biggest challenges of being parent to a high school kid? Tell us at and you could win a R250 voucher.

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