Stand back. I have emotions and I am feeling all of them at once.

You guys. Ike-a-saurus is almost five years old. Can you believe this? I can't believe this. And I know people say things like that all the time… "Wow! The time really flies!" and "It's unbelievable how fast kids grow!" but this is like a whole different thing. I'm not sure I can explain it. Just look into my eyes. See all of those feelings swirling around in there? Yeah.

He could start Kindergarten in the fall.

Like, actual school.

His fifth birthday is the DAY BEFORE school starts, though, so we've been debating whether he should start or not. He's still so tiny – 28 pounds! Maybe waiting a year is a better idea. But then his pre-school teacher was all, "Send him! Send him! He loves school and does great with his peers and knows all his letters!" So I thought, OK. Maybe we should do it. Maybe we should send him.

BUT THEN I started worrying about things like middle school. Will he really want to be the smallest kid with no chance of a mustache in the 8th grade? Or would it be better if he was the smallest kid with the most complete mustache? If he starts school now, then he will get to be in middle school for a year with his sister. If we wait a year, they'll never share space in middle school. Does that matter? Do they care?

And then after thinking all of that I had a panic attack and had to watch some Anthony Bourdain to calm down.

The thing is, with this kid, I have never thought about the future. Can a mother admit that? I hate to admit that. I have always been so scared for him that I've never thought farther ahead than the end of the week, the end of the month, maybe the end of the year, but not even that until very recently. It's always been one step forward, celebrate. One more step forward, celebrate. So now, all of these thoughts and worries not just about next year, but how this decision might affect things in years to come is especially overwhelming. My husband still can't bear to think that far ahead. We have been stunted in our imaginations by fear and worry, and now that I'm trying to break away from that I am just… overwhelmed.

It should be easy, right? Start school in the fall. If it doesn't seem like it's going to work, pull him out and try again in a year. Or, don't start school in the fall. Stay in pre-school, make volcanoes, think about Kinder at a later date. But instead of being easy, the decision just weighs on me like I'm deciding the fate of the world.

What if we send him next year and he gets RSV and ends up in the hospital? What if some big kid knocks into him and crushes his windpipe? Would it be better to wait a year because he'll be bigger and have more strength and more immunities built up? He's already been in pre-school a year, so one would hope these immunities are already building. And I know kids are not exactly likely to go around crushing each other's windpipes.

But what if we wait and he starts school and becomes bored and restless and hates it?

What if we don't wait and he's not ready emotionally and can't sit still in the third grade for those goddamned tests and that reflects on him as a student and then affects the rest of his school career?

Plus, don't we owe him another year of just fooling around? After everything he's been through, shouldn't his prize be one more year without having to walk silently through the halls and sit in a desk? I thought maybe so, but then a friend of mine pointed out that maybe for him, allowing him to join the masses and be one of the crowd is exactly what he does want and need. Maybe he's the kind of kid who thrives on desks and lines and journals and we don't know this yet.


I took him to Kinder camp today where the prospective students get to hear some stories in the library and take a tour of the school and then have a nice snack. It's a little redundant for him because he knows the school and the library already, but still, I figured it would be nice for us to go. I could silently size up the other kids, watch his interactions, and it would help me figure things out. Well. He wasn't too keen to let go of my hand and sit with the kids during story time. He was very excited to say hi to his sister's former Kinder teacher, though. And he very much enjoyed the snacks. We could have stayed for a playground get together afterwards, except that I burst into tears and we left early.


Not super helpful.

The kid is resilient. I know that. He will go where he is put and he will comply when things are asked of him and that is what will happen no matter what. But after spending so many of these five years feeling like I haven't had much of a choice about his future – how we've just been hanging on to the crashing waves and being happy to catch a few breaths of fresh air – now that an entire, important, choice is resting in my hands…. I can't figure it out. This is something I can screw up on my own, with nothing and no one to blame but myself. This is a decision that will follow him throughout his years in school. Will he be 18 when he starts college? Or 17? Will he be the first in his class to drive or the last? Will he care about any of these things? Or will they haunt him? Or will they make him puff out his chest?

This is a good problem to have. I know that. It's a problem I never let myself worry about until now. So, ultimately, I'm incredibly thankful to be this wound up about Kindergarten. Incredibly. And yet, I still agonize over it.

At some point a decision will have to be made. He is totally into the idea of Kindergarten, so maybe I should trust him to let me know what he wants.

Maybe I should stop overthinking it.

Maybe it's time to watch more Anthony Bourdain and take some deep breaths.



2 thoughts on “Stand back. I have emotions and I am feeling all of them at once.

  1. I’ve felt this way too. My 17yo was born dead, but with CPR and 4 units epinephrine he was revived, then miraculously only spent 8 days in NICU- although they warned he would be blind, deaf and mentally retarded. Then he passed the vision and hearing tests.
    At 4, he still didn’t know his ABCs. Three months later he read “Hop on Pop.” So who knows? I was homeschooling- my oldest is on the Spectrum and wasn’t ready for K. At least, I wasn’t ready to test what would happen if I sent him to school. He was reading Chronicles of Narnia and Swiss Family Robinson, and I was afraid he’d get bored and cause behavior problems.
    Both grew up. The Spectrum kid started NYOS at age 13 as a Freshman (damn September birthdays) and was fine, academically and socially, but not awesome. So I pulled him out at age 15 and home schooled one more year. Then we moved here, and I enrolled him as a junior. So he graduated finally age 18, and took ANOTHER gap year by joining the Marine Reserves. By the time he starts his freshman year of college he’ll be nearly 20.
    OTOH, the younger brother who was nearly dead ended up graduating high school at age 16. He’s now taking a few gap years probably. Maybe he’ll never get any more education. IDK. He’s brilliant. A little apraxia, but brilliant. He’s an artist, musician, novelist, writer of short stories, poems. He’s a cartoonist. Illustrator. Improv comedy wonder.
    But how was I going to know all this when they were not even 5?
    I had to make the choice for what seemed best *right then* and I just keep doing it that way. When the oldest was “fine” but not wonderful at school, we just dealt then. When the next was hating school at 16 because it was boring and he had interests that were being squashed- I pulled him out and gave him a homeschool diploma.
    The thing is, we have ALL KINDS of choices.
    Frankly, I never had the guts to put ANY kid of mine in anything until they were much older- 8 or 9 for some of them. I have a 7 and 9yo right now who are quite happy still at home. The others all asked around age 8 to try school for a year- only one wanted to stay, and stay he did until he got bored at age 16 and quit.
    If your gut says to enjoy his preschool years one more year, then do it.
    My neighbor across the street has a boy who will turn 5 just a week before school starts, too, and has the same questions as you without the health history to complicate it further. She’s putting him in a summer school program to see how he does- he does well, he’ll start K there in the fall. She’s thinking it’s more likely he’ll do a PreK year in the fall and then K the next year.
    I have two September boys and an August boy, so I totally get your angst. (The August boy, btw, went to public school at age 9 and went into 3rd grade and was moved up to a 4th grade class within a week…..)


  2. Well, I do not have as dramatic a story to tell, however, I do have an opinion on this issue. My opinion is formed by my background in the field of education research and as a Mom whose daughter just graduated from high school. Her birthday is three days before the cut-off. I sent her off to school at 5. She seemed so ready. She knew her letters and was very social. But in 3rd and 4th grade she started to have significant reading and math problems. They eventually subsided with many thousands of dollars of tutoring help and lots of tears and screaming episodes (although that just might have been a natural component of middle school). She came in to her own in high school, which frustrated me even more, because it was a signal that many of her problems were based on developmental properties. Meaning: had she stayed home another year, she probably would have done much better.
    None of this even begins to cite the issues with driving and dating and other horrors of teenage years that she participated in a year later than her peers.
    Do yourself and your son a big favor. Keep him home one more year.


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