Island Packet — Fourth grade is the worst. Don’t get me wrong. It’s the best. My son is in fourth grade now; his school is great, and his teacher wonderful. But it’s also the year an invisible switch flips, when new neurons in kids’ brains connected to previously undiscovered power sources, where you, as a parent, begin to realize, sigh, now I have to start shaping decisions and perspectives. This is obviously a lot harder than teaching baseball and Scrabble, which I am also not good at.
I’m biased, probably. A lot of things happened to me in fourth grade. We moved to a new town, a tiny cluster of houses, gas stations and precisely one stoplight in a sleepy and farmy corner of Indiana. At the time, this represented abandoning everyone I ever knew in favor of — and this is my real memory — a house that had mice on a road with no name. I got glasses that year, but when I say glasses, I don’t mean “the things you’re wearing to read this newspaper,” I mean “optometric dinner plates that Harry Caray would have rejected as too subtle, even in his current state.” I had my first encounters with bullies, school discipline and crushes. The combination of these things drop-kicked me into some new level of life, some invisible maturity bracket I mark, pretty arbitrarily, in fourth grade.
It’s also the year — at least in this house — that the construction of the rules of life begins, the year my oldest son is beginning to discern what is right and what is wrong and, most importantly, that stories can be malleable and dependent on point of view.