A lot of the parents in our office are
signing their kids up for kindergarten this month. But some have decided not
to. Jenn, a Provider Specialist responsible for credentialing elder care
service providers for our Senior Care Team. Jenn decided to "red shirt" her
daughter – and this is why.
"But how does the sperm get to the egg?" my sweet little seven year old asked one recent Monday morning as I hurriedly applied my eye makeup. "Well, Abby…" I began and carefully explained an extremely watered down version of the birds and the bees before shuffling her back to her bedroom to get ready for school.
Abby has always been my inquisitive child. She is a smart, serious, and driven girl. She loves math, science, reading, and dreams of being a doctor and singer, as well as the next Gabby Douglas. She is also loving and kind and has a dimpled smile that will melt your heart.
A July baby, Abby was eligible for kindergarten in September 2010, soon after she turned five years old. And, we had every intention of sending her…until something just started to seem "not quite right." Really, it was more of a whisper that kept telling me over and over again that she just wasn’t ready.
Abby was doing terrific in her second year of preschool. Academically, she was a star. She followed directions, worked well with others, and was also quite independent. Socially and emotionally, however, a different picture emerged. At the playground with her friends, it seemed as though she didn’t always understand their type of play. Being the tiniest and youngest, her peers would constantly pick her up, as if she were a doll. When playing "house" she was always designated the role of the baby. Potty accidents were kept quiet from her teachers. And during class, her teachers were met with silence when asking her simple questions they were sure she knew the answer to.
I silently struggled with what I thought were typical issues of an introverted four year old and tried to brush them off as nervous chatter. But, when Abby’s teachers began gently questioning her readiness for kindergarten, I knew a decision needed to be made.
In my heart, I knew the right answer, but a slew of questions ran through my mind. How would I explain to Abby that her best friend, who is five days younger than her, is a grade ahead of her? Would she be bored in kindergarten if she started a year later? What would she think when all of her preschool friends moved on to kindergarten? Would she be teased?
I remember her preschool teachers stressing three considerations which I found immensely helpful when making our decision:
- They had never met a parent who regretted giving their child an extra year before starting kindergarten. However, they all knew parents who regretted NOT doing so.
- Rather than being challenged both socially and academically in kindergarten, Abby would be able to focus more on her social and emotional needs her first year.
- If she’s socially lagging behind her peers at five years of age, think of how this will play out in middle school, high school and beyond.
After much debate, many tears, and incredible advice from multiple sources, we decided on a third year of preschool. We have never looked back. A first grader now, Abby has excelled in more ways than one. Academically, she remains a star. She is confident as well as a role model. She leads her friends in play and exerts herself by sticking up for herself and others. Older kids still like to pick her up, but she tells them to stop now.
Once in a while, usually after hanging out with her BFF, Abby asks why Claudia is a grade ahead of her. For now, I tell her that different towns have different rules and leave it at that. Someday, when she’s ready to know the real truth I plan to sit her down and say:
"Love Bug, you are one of the lucky few who got to have an extra year of preschool. Daddy and I feel that this year gave you a boost to become who you are today – a smart, strong, confident girl who will continue to chase your dreams of becoming the next Gabby Douglas or Adele. You might always be the tiniest in your class, my love, but your drive to succeed and your loveable spirit makes you shine brighter than fireworks on the 4th of July. No, you’re not in the same grade as your best friend, but being one of the oldest in your class might just be the advantage you needed to make every one of your dreams come true."