Things I have learned from having a daughter in 5th grade.

  1. This is not your son’s fifth grade. Not even close.
  2. However, the way you parented your son when he was ages 2-6 will come in handy for your daughter’s fifth grade.
  3. Fifth grade girls don’t hit with their hands, but they hit. Hard.
  4. Yes, your daughter too. I don’t care who she’s been for the last ten years. She is full of hormones and no longer in control of her body, mind or emotions.
  5. It doesn’t matter how she acts at home. Group think has kicked in and no fifth grader is strong enough to resist it.
  6. Good luck figuring out the truth. When she was little, she spoke full truth or full lie. Now she lives firmly in the gray area, embroidering her stories with perceptions, assumptions, exaggerations. Sometimes, this will leave your family howling laughing. And sometimes—almost always after you have moved heaven and earth to set up a parent-teacher-principal meeting to demand an explanation—she will concede “Well, that was the way it made me feel.”
  7. Not all teachers are equipped to handle this. They will need your patience, your permission and your help. They may think you haven’t noticed that shrieking harpy is now a facet of your daughter’s personality. The earlier you let her know that you see truth, the easier it will be to cage the harpy.
  8. Not all moms are equipped to handle this. There are a lot of reasons for this—denial, defense, deflection, among others. Moms who haven’t walked in truth the first five years you’ve known them at school are not going to wake up one morning and see. It is not your job to help them see. Fifth grade is where Mom’s Nights Out go to die.
  9. It is past time to transition away from words as your primary form of discipline. It was never a good idea, but now it’s malpractice. Words are not a consequence. Fifth graders figure out that words just have to be endured. 9th graders see words as a challenge. YOU NEED TO GET IN FRONT OF THIS. Actions are consequences. You should clear a secret space high among the shelves in your closet for all the stuff you are going to take away from your fifth grade daughter.
  10. Somewhere along the year, your girl will outwit you. When your son did it, he thought it was funny and then apologized. When she does it, she will file it away as R&D. If she’s still got a smidge of sugar and spice left, she will remind you constantly that she “got you”. If she never brings it up again, you should know she is laying strategic groundwork to own you in ways explicit and implicit for the next 7 years. At this point, her dad is already a casualty. You are the last stand. Train accordingly.
  11. Finally, if you haven’t started talking about sisterhood to your daughter, you are behind the game. In fifth grade, girls want to be friends with other girls. The problem is that they still think this has to happen in pairs. They leave their friends they have had for years and cleave to new friends. You can see how this sucks. Sisterhood is the answer.

Enjoy your summer, moms of fourth grade daughters.

Then fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy year.