“If he’s five by September 1, he can’t attend pre-K with us another year.”
That was the sentence that started the panic.
Liam is a summer baby. When I grew up, you enrolled in Kindergarten as soon as you were old enough to go. My mom had six children. She was probably trying to enroll us in Kindergarten before we were out of diapers just to catch a break.
Around the time of Liam’s third birthday, people began asking me if I was going to send him to Kindergarten when he was five, or hold him until he was six, a concept known as Kindergarten redshirting. I never committed either way, but in the back of my mind I kind of felt like we would wait. It just made sense to me. Why send him to school as one of the youngest, smallest, and least mature? We could give him a whole extra year to grow, both physically and mentally. Seemed like a no-brainer.
Liam is enrolled in a fantastic preschool through our school district. It is affordable and the schedule works well for us. Above all, I believe in the curriculum and the teacher. My plan was to send him to that school for an additional year.
The school started sending out notices reminding preschool parents of upcoming Kindergarten enrollment. I did little more than glance at these notices, but I decided to seek the opinion of Liam’s teacher as to whether or not to redshirt him. Secretly, I just wanted her to confirm my thinking and possibly give me a gold star for providing Liam with a leg up. I was in for a shock when she told me that district schools do not allow for an additional year of preschool if the student is five by the magic date, Sept 1. If he was born on Sept 2, my life would not be turned completely upside down.
I know, that sounds dramatic. But I had anticipated a whole extra year to debate this decision. Do we attempt to find another preschool? Home school for a year? Send him to Kindergarten? If so, which one?
I am not writing this post to illicit a debate or to seek advice. As I’m come to learn over the last week, this is a personal choice that greatly depends on the personality and maturity of the child. We’ll come to a decision that works for our family in our own time.
I’m writing this to make sense of the overwhelming feeling that, just like that, he’s not my baby anymore.
I always imagined when I enrolled Liam in Kindergarten, I’d be clinking margaritas with other moms and shouting “hurray!” Seven hours a day five days a week with someone else entertaining him. But as I filled Ben in on the conversation with Liam’s teacher, I burst into tears.
“He’s not ready. I’m not ready. What am I going to do without him here all day?”
I imagined someone else seeing his milestones, someone else telling ME about the funny thing he did that day. I cried over all the little moments I’d been missing out on. I wouldn’t be the one there to comfort him when he scraped a knee, or give him a hug when he made up a funny song.
This time before school is precious. He is about to embark on a journey that can last thirteen to twenty years. I began questioning why I had put him in preschool. He was about to become beholden to years of structured routine. I should have been providing him with memories and experiences that could not be made from behind a desk. Had I done enough? It can never be enough. I need more time. It’s happening too fast.
As luck would have it, Kellen went for a double milestone that very same week- he gave up his nap and started potty training. Believe me, I did not plan it that way. After having a very tough time potty training Liam, I vowed to let Kellen take the lead. The approach seems to have paid off because Kellen is taking to it like a champ.
Preschool lets out late in the morning. We usually go to the park with a friend who has two sons that are similar ages to my own. Each of her boys are about six months younger than my two boys. Normally the six months does not matter a great deal. The little boys play together, and the big boys play together.
But this week, Kellen is throwing off the equilibrium. He wants to play with the big boys. On this particular day, the three boys chased after each other pretending to be super heroes and villains, while the youngest played ball on his own. At one point I stopped Kellen to remind him to pee. After helping him water a bush (hey, when you are potty training, you go where they’ll go), I returned to talk with the other mom.
“It’s like he grew up over night- potty training, playing with the big boys,” she said.
That sentence gave me pause. It WAS like he grew up over night. Good thing I had sunglasses on to shield the fact that I was getting misty over my son peeing on a plant.
From the moment your child is even a tiny blip on the ultrasound radar, every parent in a fifty mile radius is advising you “enjoy it while they are little. It goes by so fast.” After hearing it for the thousandth time, I wanted to scream “I get it! Time is precious.”
The reason people repeat this mantra is because it’s true. Like me, they probably had a week or a day or even a moment when their child suddenly decided to grow up and they would give anything to hold that baby just a little longer.
Just like that, it’s almost over and a new adventure will begin.