Tales Of A Fifth Grade Somebody

The boy turned 11 last week. Tomorrow he goes back to school to finish the second half of fifth grade. Looked at me this afternoon and told me that I don’t understand the kind of pressure he is under and yelled at me when I smiled at him.

I poked him in the ribs and told him that he can’t yell at me. When he asked why I started to tickle him and then the two of us rolled around on the floor until he pinned me.

Or should I say until he thought he pinned me. I won’t give you the play-by-play because it is not interesting but the point and purpose of why we wrestled are important so take notes.

I know my son and I knew that he was upset about school. I also knew that talking about it wasn’t going to solve the problem because he wasn’t in a place where he would hear me. He wanted a hug desperately but the kid is getting to that place where he doesn’t know how to be cool if dad hugs him.

So we wrestle. I hug him but camouflage it by teasing him just a bit and life moves on.

He is working on a major genealogy project which is part of why he is a bit freaked out about school. Winter break is almost over and it is time to get back to the grind.

After our wrestling match I sat him down and told him that it was time to interview me. It is part of the project but it technically it is not due for a week or so but there is no reason not to try and get ahead.

It was a simple interview of about seven questions that covered my life as a fifth grader. We talked about my favorite school subject, food, where I lived and what I liked to do.

But we didn’t talk about how I had two teachers that year. Didn’t discuss how Mrs. S. was the toughest teacher I had ever had and how I felt like I had too much work. Didn’t talk about how she piled it on and how I heard parents talking about how happy they were that she was pushing us.

Nor did we talk about she left after the Fall semester and was replaced by Mr. A. Didn’t talk about how he had no control of my class at all. He would show slides and Super 8 footage of his time in Vietnam. When he wasn’t doing that we were climbing in and out of the windows and raising hell.

That is not an exaggeration. In fact I remember crying to my parents that sixth grade math was hard because he didn’t teach us anything. Got to thank my parents for telling me that it didn’t matter whether he did or didn’t because the work still had to get done.

Middle school is just around the corner and he is freaked out about it. Technically his current school goes all the way through sixth grade so if I can find a couple of shekels I can keep him there another year. He really wants to finish what he started and I’d like for him too.

The thing is that private school isn’t cheap and I don’t know what location I’ll be working from so there are more than a few factors to consider. And those things don’t address the question of whether it is better to make the change in sixth grade because it is sort of a “natural” transition.

I remember sixth grade for many reasons, including the fact that I was forced to switch schools and didn’t get to finish what I started. I remember standing in the schoolyard listening to them tell us about Reagan getting shot and wondering if the world was going to end.

First my folks made me switch schools and then the president got shot. Remember this wasn’t long after the Hostage crisis, the end of Vietnam and Watergate. All these things were talked about and more than a few people said that Reagan would bomb those commies in Russia.

It wasn’t what I heard at home, but the schoolyard is a great place for learning things. That was where I found out that Shelly Sue had been doing more than kissing with Robert Harold, although just what that meant was never clear to me.

Well, it is obvious that the world didn’t end when I was in 5th grade and I don’t think that my son will see the sun set for the last time either. But I can see why he might be feeling a little pressure. And now if you will excuse me I think that I need to go challenge him to another wrestling match.

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  1. ennasnosrap January 6, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    My daughter had to switch from her beloved Waldorf school and community she’d known since Kindergarten to a big scary Denver Public School middle school for 6th grade because we just couldn’t hack the private school tuition anymore. She was pretty angry when we made the decision, but it was beautiful to see her grow and change with her new and very different environment.

    Now, a year later, from her lofty position as a seventh grader, even she admits it was for the best and she was really ready for a larger social venue and different kinds of challenges. None of us loves her current middle school, but we all love how rising to the challenge has made her a stronger, more flexible and open-minded person – all skills that will support her going forward in this new economy. Maybe best of all she learned that change doesn’t have to be good or bad, it’s just change, and it’s up to you to decide what you want to make of it. (I came from a childhood where I moved fairly frequently, including between 6th and 7th grade, which was particularly tough; though I, too, hated it at the time, as with my daughter, learning to respond to those big changes and experiencing different cultures and social groups changed me in ways that remaining in my original insular community and school wouldn’t have done – so no regrets!).

    The important thing for your son is that he obviously knows that you’re there for him at a deeply committed and understanding level. That will see him through whatever changes come his way. Thanks for a great, thought-provoking post.

    • Jack January 6, 2012 at 5:28 pm

      Ah, sounds like you were in the same position that we are in. I am so glad to hear that she rose to the occasion.

      Children tend to be more resilient than we are but that doesn’t necessarily make these changes any easier to work through.

      My own father moved 13 times as a kid so he made a point to keep us all in one place.

      Anyway, we do the best we can to take care of these kids and hope that we don’t make too many mistakes.

  2. Bruce Sallan January 4, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    We called in Junior High and it was no big deal. Middle School today is a very big deal. First, mom and dad are no longer welcome. Get used to it. They don’t want you there…they want your money but don’t need you to organize much or spend time in their classrooms.

    As for the kids, the advent of the Internet and modern tech have made Middle School years the hardest years of their lives.

    Get ready for some challenges, JB!

    • Jack January 5, 2012 at 3:42 pm

      Hi Bruce,

      Sorry for the delayed response, I mistakenly thought I had answered this.

      I have heard similar things from friends and am gearing up for the next set of challenges. This middle school stuff is going to interesting…

  3. Dina January 4, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    Fifth grade is tough, especially socially. I think it’s great that you have found a way to show your son the affection he needs while still letting him feel “cool” about it.

    • Jack January 4, 2012 at 5:29 pm

      Hi Dina,

      I can see the social aspect starting to rear its head. I think that it is going to be an interesting road for him, but not as crazy as it will be for my daughter.

      Call me a chauvinist, but I think that middle school is a bit crazier for girls than boys.

      Oy, not really ready for that yet but I guess soon the choice will be made for me.

      Good to see you again.

  4. Mimi Meredith January 4, 2012 at 6:32 am

    I think it’s awesome that you knew intuitively what your son needed was a lecture about the motivating factors to embrace school. I am sure I would have overtalked that parenting moment. And it’s even more impressive that you shared all your memories with us, but just seven pertinent facts with him. He didn’t get the “I remember when,” instead, it was all about him. And wrestling. I think you aced the parenting moment and can pretty much rest on your laurels for the rest of the week!

    • Jack January 4, 2012 at 5:27 pm

      I try to give him just what he needs and nothing more than that. When he is feeling overwhelmed he isn’t really listening to everything so I just want to help him catch his breath.

      This is one of those areas where I see large chunks of my personality coming out so it is not too hard to relate.

      But between you and me, I hope that he lets that part go because it is not one of my finer traits.

  5. Jay Adams January 4, 2012 at 2:59 am

    sounds like you figured out what works with your son. school continuity has to be important i think. i changed schools in the middle of the 5th grade, then again in the 6th, then again in the 11th. first as part of the ‘white flight’ then my parent’s divorce. not a good thing, but learned that parents have to act on what they think is best at the time – i know i did when i became one. sounds like you’re on the right track with your boy!

    • Jack January 4, 2012 at 5:25 pm

      Hi Jay,

      Let me be the 1,092,983,982,292 parent to say that I am doing the best I can based on what I know and think. It is all we can do.

      I would think that two school changes in such a short time was probably hard for you.

  6. Renee Schuls-Jacobson January 3, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    This is gorgeous! Happy b’day to your son. Amazing! I was in high school when Reagan was shot and feeling like the world was a crazy place when they were willing to shoot presidents for actors who didn’t know they were alive.

    Keep wrestling. That’s what we do here.

    • Jack January 4, 2012 at 5:23 pm

      When you look back upon our lives you see a ton of examples of how this world we live in has always been crazy.

      But we get through it because that is what we do.

      Hope that 2012 is treating you well.

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