On a regular basis I get to be a part of the world of fifth grade girls, which is pretty terrific and always interesting. Many of these girls I’ve known since kindergarten and it’s a joy to watch them grow up and grow into themselves, even as they reflect pieces of their parents.
I’ve noticed lately that many are beginning to feel their oats, to sashay about as they realize their powers and gifts. Some are smart, some are athletic, some are quiet, some are thoughtful, some are goofy, some are kind. Some are artists and some are writers and some are coders. Some see others as cute, and others see them as cute, in the I-want-to-go-out-with-you (but-I-don’t-know-what-that-means) sort of way.
Most of them still have one foot in childhood and one foot in adolescence Some are further along that road than others, and feel that mortal peril of being the first one with unwanted pimples, hair that just shouldn’t be where it is, body odor, and the mother of all embarrassements, the dreaded period.
They’re figuring out what is injustice and what is simply carelessness. They’re learning about politics too – when I was in fifth grade, Nixon resigned. Now they watch and learn during the Trump administration. They experience disappointment and happiness as they lose and they win. They also face boredom, and the consequence of saying to a parent, “I’m bored. There’s nothing to do.”
Like a Virginia Reel, they weave in and out of old and new friendships. I’m never quite sure who is whose best friend at any given moment, and that does seem to change on a weekly basis. They text now, and Skype, and email. They never talk on the phone with each other, which was a hallmark of my early adolescence. Nor do they carry tv show themed lunchboxes. They’d rather die than do that.
I’m the mother of one of those girls, and most of the time I feel like my job is to encourage the good that is there and not to mess it up. And as much as my daughter and her friends are learning what it is to grow up and to become tweens, I as a parent learn everyday too. When do I react to the drama and when do I let it be? When do I console, and when do I offer another view? The last thing I want to be is a helicopter parent, but oh, the temptation is there!
I think J. K. Rowling knew what she was doing when she had kids start Hogwarts at age 11. Those kids were beginning to realize their magical powers, and needed guidance and education. I feel that way about these girls because, yes, they are powerful. They can’t even imagine yet what gifts they have. They’re beginning to learn about the choice to use their power for good or for harm, not with wands, but with words and deeds.
I imagine sometimes what they’ll be like in high school or even in college, and I don’t get too far because nothing is set in stone yet. Or ever, really. Who they are becoming today may not be who they end up as. But what a dance. What a journey. What precious, precocious, powerful human beings they are.
Rock on, girls. You’ve got this.