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Viewpoints Building strength from tough experiences, even in fifth grade

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My daughter texted me from class recently on the phone I swore my kids would never have. She was pleading with me to come pick her up because some of the girls in class were “being mean.”

Now I’ve been in fifth grade before, so her story checks out. There’s never not a time when a fifth-grade girl somewhere isn’t being awful. But most of us live through it and come out better on the other side. So I took the chance to let my kid struggle.

Sunny texted me the same morning I was struggling to find the strength to call my husband and tell him I backed into his car – for the third time in our marriage.

To be fair, the first time I backed into his trailer. And admittedly depth perception is not one of my strengths.

I have plenty of great qualities. I am very loving and kind. I value volunteer work more than paid work. Hello, I work in the newspaper business!

I’m also really good at Pictionary – like I’m freaky good.

But backing a car out of a steep driveway just isn’t on the list of glowing qualities I possess.

I was lecturing the girls about responsibility when I heard the sickening crunch of bumper on bumper. I didn’t even have time to register the repercussions. I just had to inspect the damage, and get the kids to school.

I’d figure out a way to break the news to the Hubs later. I chose to use humor.

After 15 years and three car crunches, this is just the funny thing I do now, right? Classic Crystal.

It’s how I handle most of my stressful situations. Assess the damage, find the humor, and move on.

As a fifth-grade girl I had way bigger problems than a thousand dollars’ worth of car damage. I had a big nose and frizzy hair, my crush didn’t like me back, and I didn’t have the foresight to see that none of it really mattered.

My daughter was born quirky. She’s always been very witty and hilarious, but she dresses like Sarah Jessica Parker in the dark. She wears flip flops the whole winter, her shirt never matches her pants, she got a crazy cute but short pixie cut and she’s going through an exclusive bell bottom phase that stands out among her skinny jean peers.

But I’ve always loved that she owns every single part of her being.

She’s never been one to care if she didn’t look or act like other kids. And I’ve tried to make sure she never did.

But fifth grade hit, and all of a sudden all of those accepting, loving classmates turned into hormone-riddled, insecure demon babies. And Sunny’s starting to notice that the kids don’t accept all her quirks like they used to.

I was different, too, but I firmly believe it’s what made me who I am today. I wasn’t one of the pretty girls in middle school. I was witty, I guess, but it came out as sass mouth, and I was loathed by a lot of my teachers.

Only my band director saw through my angsty facade, and she realized I was just scared and awkward like the rest of my peers.

I pined for a boy who would never love me back, and I went through a weird JNCO jean phase. My hair, complexion, clothes and demeanor didn’t match the really cute, perfect, sporty girls.

So I suffered through a really awkward, horrible, depressing phase in my life. And I came out with the personality of a hilarious self-deprecating goddess.

I really settled in on loving who I was in my late 20s and early 30s. But I think the core building blocks of that person started in fifth grade. So as much as I hate to see my daughter struggle, I’m secretly thankful that she is.

I texted and told her I would be there after school to love on her and hold her as long as she wanted. But for now I wanted her to formulate a plan to just get through the day.

This is only the beginning of hard days for her. But each day she lives through what seems to be the worst thing ever, she’ll realize she’s been building strength and a personality to boot.

She sent me a heart emoji, and by the end of the day she’d orchestrated a playdate after school with the friend who hurt her that morning.

One day down, 20 years to go.