Amidst all the recent hoopla--both academic and extra-curricular--we've been coping with in these parts, it had heretofore escaped my notice that Team WestEnders is about to face yet another somewhat momentous occasion: the conclusion of our collective Middle School Experience. That's right--Riley is sliding into the homestretch, with only one more week left as an 8th grader. With all of his tests and tryouts and whatnot, I suppose it's no wonder this snuck up on us...but now those challenging tasks are behind him, and only the fun stuff remains.
Speaking of which, the first noteworthy event on the calendar happened to be a social activity on Friday night...the 8th Grade Semi-Formal. Attendance at this shindig was not mandatory, of course, so Riley's initial reaction was a predictable, scoffing, "Pffft, I'm not going to that!" But then as the date drew closer he began to contemplate it a little more, and eventually softened his position to the much less definite, "Maybe...it depends on whether my friends are going." Ah, yes, the old adage "there's strength in numbers" remains undeniably true...especially when applied to adolescent males, who feel more comfortable traveling in packs! (And really, who can blame them? 'Cuz Middle School girls can be totally scary, dude! Trust me, I used to BE one, ya know...)
It turned out that the two specific buddies whose support he required to declare himself "in" were in favor of gracing their classmates with their presence, so Operation...I don't know...Boys at the Ball?...was a GO. Great! Now all we needed to do was ensure that Riley had something appropriate to wear. Right...uh-oh. You see, a quick peek into his closet revealed: a polo shirt, and...nope, that's it, nothing else. Hmm, I guess he hasn't had an occasion to dress up in a while, yeah?
In this situation, when you're lacking the recommended attire...but you live in a house with two other guys who are approximately the same size (I know, right! When did that even happen?)...there's only one thing to do: raid your father's and brother's closets. From Derek we obtained a practically new, gently worn pair of dress pants--his only ones, in fact, bought at the beginning of his Sophomore year, when we had to scour the offerings at Kohl's to locate the SINGLE option that would stay up on his scrawny hips (with a belt, no less). Since Derek has filled out since then, and now outweighs Riley by about 20 pounds, they fit the younger kid like they were made for him. (Yep, with a belt...bless my skinny--um, "wiry"--children. And if that hadn't worked, I don't know what we would have done...except maybe go shopping. Thanks goodness it didn't come to that--at least this time!).
Then it was on to Husband's array of shirts and ties, which offered much more variety and the possibility of actually making some choices. Riley was not delighted with the...ahem...let's say "voluminousness" of the button-downs...until he came across one marked as "Slim Fit"....which looked--and felt, apparently--perfect on him. He quickly managed to select a patterned tie that pleased him, and because we'd already conceded to allowing him to wear his recently purchased, pristinely clean sneakers, BAM, wardrobe D-O-N-E. (I've said it before and I'll most likely say it again: in some ways boys are soooooo...uncomplicated!)
With those important decisions out of the way, all that was left to do was figure out a game plan for the night of the gala. Again...BOYS...so they went with the simple and low-key "gather at "Ken's" (not his real name, protecting the innocent, blah blah blah) house, eat pizza, play a little basketball and/or X-Box, throw on our fancy duds, and catch a ride over to school." Easy peasy, right? Sure, except for that one teensy tiny little issue...your mother wants her photo op. (But, that's just so... unexpected! Said no one who's met me, EVER....)
Riley perhaps did let a very small sigh escape his lips...and he might have given me a quick side-eye...and a quietly muttered, "Moooommmm!" But unlike his brother, who fought me tooth and nail over the Prom pictures, he probably figured it was less traumatic to just agree with me and get it over with. (Smart boy! I wouldn't be surprised if he also realized that, since there were no damsels involved in this venture, the potential for embarrassment was really quite low. I mean, who cares if there's photographic evidence of you and your posse acting like goofballs? Eh, that's pretty much business as usual, actually...).
So at the appointed time I strolled over to Ken's with my trusty Nikon to document the four dapper young men on their way to one of their final celebrations of Middle School. And I tell ya, it was like some kind of MIRACLE: they weren't sweaty, or covered in grass, or sporting stains from their last meal...I swear I almost didn't recognize them (including my own kid)! In short, they looked very handsome...even if they couldn't quite camouflage the impish gleam in their eyes as they contemplated just what kinds of mischief they could get into if the dance failed to hold their attention or entertain them sufficiently. (Because, you know, heaven forbid they actually stoop to conversing with the opposite sex, or anything crazy like that....)
Satisfied with my shots, I left them to storm the gymnasium...consume copious amounts of junk food...play some casino-inspired games the PTA was providing...aaannnnd...whatever else one does to pass the time at a school-sponsored soiree of this nature (probably under the heading of "hopefully-harmless youthful hijinks", as previously mentioned). After all, when you're only a Middle Schooler for seven more days, you'd better make the most of it--even if it does mean you have to put on a tie...and risk interacting with girls...for a couple of hours!