My mom adventures in Fort Collins


The gift of another year
January 27, 2012, 5:54 am
Filed under: Parenting

I continue to consume all things kindergarten. Tonight I went to my 5th school meeting, at O’Dea Core Knowledge. And tomorrow I will go sit in at Shepardson, our neighborhood school and most likely candidate for “Where Scout will go to elementary school.”

And yesterday, I spent a long time thinking and talking about whether or not Scout is ready for Kindergarten. I talked with her teacher from last year, I talked with her teacher this year, my friend and former teacher Ginger, and I talked with my mom. Everyone was wonderfully helpful and supportive. Today, I spent time talking with her beloved Aunt Lexie, my good friends Hilary and Kerri, and another preschool mom. Again, totally supportive and lovely.

The result of all of these wonderful conversations was a real paradigm shift. First a language shift: I am not “holding her back” a year, but “giving her the gift” of another year.

We need to stop calling the choice to keep these beautiful children home another year to prepare for kindergarten “holding back.” It’s limiting. It sounds like we’re restraining our kids and preventing them from achieving their full potential. Quite the contrary, we are giving our children the time and the appropriate environment to grow and mature so that kindergarten (and school and academics, in general) can be met with all the enthusiasm and skills possible.

Let’s banish second guessing the parents who give their children this gift. Prior to this experience (like many different lessons in parenthood), I had no idea how difficult this decision could be. I can claim pure ignorance. I really came late to this realization. But, truthfully, thank goodness I came to this realization before it was too late. Good thing my silly pride didn’t get in the way of opening my eyes and my heart to the possibility that my beloved daughter might be better served by doing something slightly unconventional. Children need not attend kindergarten simply because they are chronilogically ready.

And that is my second paradigm shift. My responsibility to do right by Scout trumps whatever I previously thought I would do, what I envisioned for her. In my head, my five-year-old goes to kindergarten. Not my six-year-old. But what does a matter of months really mean? Who cares? I need to let go of this imaginary set of rules that I would very much like to rely on. My child, especially as the oldest, is–and I mean this in the best way possible–a bit of an experiment. I am new at this. My parenting will always be a series of doing-the-best-I-can decisions, because, sadly, there is no rulebook. Scout herself is trying to teach me how to parent her and I can’t always know how to interpret her.

But my reservations in sending her to kindergarten are there. And if they were purely academic, I think we’d roll with it. But school is so much more than academics, and I cannot imagine her struggling. As her mom, I don’t ever want her to struggle. Her tears the other day killed me. Here she was explaining how two girls at the “Kids Club” (the day-care at the gym I go to) told her they didn’t want to play with her. She was devastated, and apparently the only thing that would improve this situation was if these girls would play with her. The whole ride home I said, “Why would you want to play with someone who doesn’t want to play with you? Why would you want to play with girls who say mean things to you?” She remained steadfast. “I don’t like to play alone, mom. I want to play with friends.” She didn’t distinguish the girls who hurt her feelings from “friends.” These situations make me angry. Kids are mean, true. But I want Scout to take one look at those mean girls and stick up for herself. At the very least, I don’t want her to want to run into the arms of the children who break her heart.

There are so many instances I could give where my kind, good-hearted girl simply lacks the skills and experience to navigate increasingly difficult social situations. I’m left to think: She’s not ready. Maybe another year to mature, grow, gain confidence while in the loving environment of her home and her supportive pre-school would benefit her.  At the very least, it can’t hurt her. I won’t know for sure if this is the best decision possible for her. But I think I’m willing to listen to my girl as best as I can right now. And she is telling me, I think, that she needs a minute yet before the pace picks up and the stakes are ratcheted up a notch. Image

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[…] agonizing for months (read about the preliminary thoughts here), registering her for BOTH Kindergarten and Pre-K, doing research and reading what I could get my […]

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