Posted in Milestone Moments, School, Tweens

The Initiation of 5th Grade


My son is not having an easy time of it this fall. I don’t know about your school, but at ours, 5th grade is the threshold of something completely different than what’s come before.

Suddenly, there are tests and grades and lectures.  Suddenly, there is no knitting or singing or circle time.  And suddenly they are presented with an uniquely, singular teacher: DAVID.

The kids are afraid of David.

The kids LOVE David!

The parents, on the other hand, aren’t so sure. We have suddenly become irrelevant. This shift both terrifies and fascinates us, as if we’re moving through a set of revolving doors for the first time. At one moment our 5th grader is in tears, and at another he is surly and rude.  First he begs us to help him, then pushes us firmly away.  He is revolving too. We all have bruises on our heads.

DAVID has the job of overseeing this passage through the TWEENS–for both students–and parents. We’d like to blame him for everything.

David is jocular and crude.  David is demanding and demeaning.  David is dismissive and didactic. If David were somehow different, our kids wouldn’t be changing.

David is a good distraction.

In David’s room, the innocence of childhood is trampled, and not only because of Ren and Stimpy.  Our kids discard their childhoods because they’re ready; because David shows them how; because they rely on him to do so; and in return, he earns their undying affection. (Highschoolers even return to hug David.)

The is my third round in David’s room, which makes the climb less of a surprise, but unfortunately doesn’t make it any easier.  The first time, I was a teacher myself, pregnant for with my first child. My son Lloyd had his own steep entry into 5th grade; but his and David’s minds were well aligned, which isn’t as true for the youngest of our family.

Aidan marches to the beat of a different drummer. He’s the poster child in fact.  Despite the aggravation, we appreciate the heart and exuberance he lends to our family.  We’re not sure how he’s appreciated in David’s room.  Recently he was told (by most of the class) that a paper cut would hurt more than his punch.

This past weekend, he burnt through another layer of innocence while wrestling with the chore of stocking the porch with wood.  When the overloaded wheel barrel dumped logs onto his boot, he sat down on the stairs and balled (less out of pain than frustration.)

Why does this ALWAYS happen to me!” he sobbed at the sky. “Why, why, why?” he repeated again and again as he returned to the shed for the next load.

Aidan had begged and waited and cajoled for help with this chore, and I wanted to be with him; but I could clearly see that my help would suspend him in “helplessness.”  Thus my own initiation, as a parent of a ten-year old, was to walk away and let him wallow in self-pity until he seared through his own resistance and emerged a more capable “man.”

Yes, he is only ten.  Yes, I wanted to take him on my lap and rock him.  And yes, he would have let me. But that’s not truly what he wants, and my job is to help him get that.

(I wish there was a David for me.)

Kelly Salasin, November 2010


(Note: a month later, we made the decision to have our son return to 4th grade.)


Lifelong educator, writer, retreat & journey leader, yoga & yogadance instructor.

One thought on “The Initiation of 5th Grade

  1. How sweetfully painful. Bravo for mommy getting out of the way of his emerging manhood. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Too many parents today in the US are creating “emotional marshmellows” by overly pampering their children and protecting them from feeling any pain. Life will be painful, can’t avoid that fact. Are we helping or hindering our kids from experiencing their inner strength? Stop and think before you intervene. It may be time to let go some more. Ask yourself, “what do I want my child to learn?”
    That mom and dad will always come to my rescue and so I don’t have to take responsibility for my own life? OR I am strong and capable and I have what it takes to deal with the challenges of life?


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