Fifth grade is the last year of our elementary school. It’s the time for kids to be the “seniors” of the place where they’ve grown up in just a few short years. It’s also a time for moms everywhere to wax philosophical about where the time went. We’ve spent six years at this elementary school – a tiny school built in 1955 in the suburbs of Maryland. It was a place to which I was terrified to send my baby and now it’s a place that makes me wistful every time I drive by.
Back in the summer of 2012, I took Evan to the elementary school for the first time for his kindergarten assessment. I panicked as his prospective teacher led him into the classroom and asked me to patiently wait in the hall. My heartstrings tugged as I thought of little 5 year old Evan being led into a place he didn’t know with a teacher he didn’t know. I was so scared of how alone and intimidated he must be feeling.
A short while later, the teacher safely returned him to me and pulled me aside for a minute. She confided that as soon as they were alone in the classroom, Evan felt the need to make a confession telling her, “Look, I can’t read.” We both got a laugh and it eased the tension for me.
A few weeks later, I put my baby on a bus and sent him away to school for the longest amount of time we had ever been apart. And it felt like the longest day of my life. For about six weeks, we went through tears and hugs as he stated he liked school but didn’t want to go back. And begrudgingly, I still sent him back every single day.
I volunteered once a week and got to know his teachers and the other kids. Over the next few years, I migrated from volunteering in the classroom to volunteering with the PTA. I wasn’t over-involved but involved enough to know who was in his life and what was going on.
By the time Evan reached 4th grade, things really started to change. He finally had a teacher that saw something unique and special in him. Her encouragement and confidence in him helped him gain confidence in himself and start to discover who he is. But 5th grade was when it all started to come together.
In 5th grade, Evan knew exactly who he was and liked himself that way. While I see peer interactions and influence becoming more important to him, I also saw his fierce stubbornness and independence coming into play. He’s definitely more confident in himself than I was at that age.
Elementary school is definitely where we see our little boys become big boys but 5th grade is where we see our big boys become young men.
He’s discovered that clothes do make the man. His attire changed from all athletic clothes, all the time to his own sense of personal style. He likes to wear watches and readily puts on a tie when the occasion calls for it. And now enjoys a few polos and plaid button-ups in his still mostly athletic wardrobe.
He enjoys his time outside running around with the boys, whether it’s for PE or recess or Play Day at school.
He’s found that a few great friends are better than many good friends. And he’s discovered that both girls and boys can make good friends when you have enough in common.
In addition to having enlightening conversations with his friends, he’s become a surprisingly good conversationalist with his mom. We recently took a trip to Pennsylvania together and enjoyed chatting together over dinner at a lovely outdoor cafe.
He’s also still a big kid. He often says he wishes he could get a job. He wants money. He wants to start his career. And I keep reminding him that there will be plenty of time for that. Now is the time to goof off and enjoy his childhood.
Last week, we officially said goodbye to 5th grade. I spent the last full day of school volunteering for the 5th grade picnic. We played games outside, ate pizza, and ended the day with sno-cones. It was my last chance to wear my PTA volunteer shirt and my last real chance to interact with the kids I’d met way back in kindergarten. A few of them even asked me to sign their yearbook.
The next day, I took Evan to his elementary school for the last time. The 5th graders do a traditional farewell walk through the school and high five all of the other kids. It’s a bit of a rite of passage before they’re bussed to the high school for their official promotion ceremony.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to fare at the ceremony but when the teachers started reminiscing about their time in kindergarten, the waterworks started. The tears were running down my face thinking about the end of an era. I’m proud of him and excited for him as I know he’s ready for middle school but my heartstrings still tug as I think about him once again heading off to a place he doesn’t know with teachers he doesn’t know.
And then I remembered the promise Evan made to me. He promised he would make me laugh during his promotion ceremony. So when the 5th grade class got on stage to sing Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up,” he gave the most overly dramatic performance he could knowing it would make me smile. Mission accomplished.
After the ceremony, we stuffed our faces with sushi and started making plans for another summer to remember. As we each summer we get to spend together (and that he still wants to spend with me) I plan to make it count.