Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Year of Mild Torture

This year has been a form of torture for my middle son and me. I had all kinds of wonderful intentions for how we were going to use this extra year, but none of my good intentions have materialized. I refer to this year as extra because C’s a fall-birthday-baby, meaning that when all his preschool friends got to move on to kindergarten, he didn’t. This was a difficult concept to grasp. (You have to be five by September 1st.)

C didn’t see himself any differently. He was just as fast, as tall, as coordinated, as verbal, and as inquisitive. He was exhibiting all those school-ready-signs. I was so tempted to go through the necessary steps to see him enter this last fall as a kinder, but something inside of me was scared. What if this messed up his life? What if he was developmentally ready as a five-year-old, but when he turned 15 he was behind: the last to hit puberty. I didn’t want to completely screw up his entire adult life just because he was the last boy to have his voice drop or sprout a bit of mustache hair.

And then the words of a kindergarten teacher cautioned me, “Do you really want to cheat him of one more year of his childhood?” No! Never! I don’t want to do that. How horrible. I’m not a horrible mother. I won’t do that! And so September rolled around, and we stayed home. We took his older brother to school, we saw his friends tumble out of their cars in the carpool line. C rolled down his window and shouted excitedly, “Hi Jack! Hi Brandon! Hi Saydee!” Then he would look at me, “Those are my friends. I miss them. When I turn five, will I get to be with them again?” It was tricky explaining the concept of being five on September 1st. But eventually I was sure he got it.

However, two weeks later when he turned five, and invited all his “older” friends to his party, he didn’t understand why he wasn’t going to get to join them in the school drop off line the next day. It continues to perplex him. It feels unjust.

“Next year I’ll get to be in kindergarten, right mom?” Right! “And I’ll finally get to be in class with Jack and Wyatt?!” No. “What? Why do they get to be in 1st grade” It’s not fair!” And I have to agree with him, being a fall birthday myself. But I’m old enough to have been from the era when the cut-off was November 1st, so I got to be the young one in my class, and I loved it. I got to college when I was 17, and I was ready…I was very over high school by that point. I guess that is why this year hasn’t been some glorious extension of childhood, but rather a very long time-out.

Besides, like I hinted at earlier, I haven’t been the most stellar mom with these afternoons together. My middle son doesn’t play well by himself; he’s very social. And I am not the kind of mom who plays. I facilitate activities; I do not play with my children. This is why we had siblings and not only-children. So, my five-year-old has become very good at computer games and navigating our kid-friendly Netflix account. Bad mom, bad mom.

On the way to preschool, coming off of winter break, C yelled, “Goodbye Christmas Vacation, hello preschool!” I’m pretty sure his sentiments will be similar this fall when he shouts, “Goodbye Preschool, hello Kindergarten.” And I’ll be shouting right along with him. I just hope I haven’t made the wrong choice and instead of cheating him of his childhood, I’ve cheated him of being with his true friends. Nothing is worse than 12 years of knowing that you’ve been placed with the wrong group of peers.


Sally said...

I enjoyed reading this, Rebekah.

We delayed Kindergarten for our oldest so he wouldn't be the youngest in the class (August birthday). It was clear that while he knew everything he just wasn't ready. And yes, we watched the four little girls in our neighborhood march off to Kindergarten thinking - that could be Spencer.

My experience with being the youngest was different than yours. I always felt like I was behind my peers and really wasn't ready when I was dropped off at college. In fact, I'll be so bold as to say I cried.

The same thing happened when I graduated. I cried. Always too young, always not ready. I really could have used one more year.

That said, I hope you find once your sweetie starts school that you did make the right decision. All these parenting decisions are hard, aren't they?

Michelle said...

I had just turned five when I was shuttled off to kindergarten. There had been some major family upheavals and a new sibling was on the way, and I understand why my Mom sent me to school as soon as she could. But I wasn't ready.

My son is an August birthday, same as me, and I was adamant he was not going to be rushed into K. He could go when he turned 6. But in his 4 year old preschool class, all he talked about was K. His teacher said he would be ready in the fall, if I was going to be ready.

Would I ever be ready? Nope.

But I changed how I thought I was going to do it, and sent him to school. He was not me, he was so ready. And his sister, two years behind him, was also ready. Of course, she was ready at 3, so that two year wait was pretty hard.

Now we are looking at colleges. When flyers from colleges three states away arrived in our mailbox, I had that same feeling.

Will I ever be ready? Nope.

Anonymous said...

We struggle with a parenting decision similar to this one when we decided to pull Geoffrey from the local private school and home school him. It was very hard on him when he realized he wouldn't being going back to the school to see his friends and he has always mentioned how he wanted to make sure he stayed on course for his class. I didn't put him in preschool and he is a fall baby as well so I held him back, but the fact that he wants so badly to go back to school is a very difficult decision for us as parents. Parenting is tough!

Rebekah said...

Sally. I think you made the right choice and I think that once C is in school I'll feel like I made the right choice too. It has just been a long year. I wish I could have supplemented with afternoon classes or activities. Or a PK program that was 4 mornings a week just like older brother. But the preschools in this area are only three mornings a week. He loves his preschool and I am very grateful for it...just wish it was longer or more often, I guess.

Rebekah said...

Also, I mainly hear stories about people who weren't ready or waited or should have waited that it made me scared to push C early, but I kinda think he would have been just fine.

Rebekah said...

And Mrs. Anonymous, just curious what you think you might do for next year? Will you send G back to the school he was in with those same children? Stay the course? Another option?

Anonymous said...

I liked what Sally said. Thanks for being so open with your own story, Sally. So far I'm glad we kept our Aug B-day girl home that extra year. She's in 4th grade now.

Tree said...

Logan is a November baby, and we have weighed this dilemma as well. It seems silly to even think about this since he is only 3, but I am a planner. I was talking with a kindergarten teacher of mine the other day, and she helped me to see another perspective. When our boys are getting ready to graduate, they will most likely be at the top of their class. They will be the oldest fighting for the same scholarships as some of the other students. While it may not seem "fair" right now, it may be what is best for them in the future.
I am with you. I think Logan will be ready for Kinder when he'd not quite five, but I don't think we are going to push the issue.