8/27/09

Kinder Jitters

It was last December when I met with Shelby's preschool teacher to discuss her kindergartren readiness.


"She's so young, I protested. John and I are undecided about sending her off to Kindergarten this fall before she turns 5. In your opinion, is she prepared?" I asked her wide-eyed teacher.
This conversation was a poignant one in my mind because, aside from the details, the result was this: preschool, or at least the preschool Shelby was attending, is for social development first, and academic development second. And thus, if John and I were confident in her social progress and concerned about her academics, then we should send her to kindergarten, becasue she wasn't going to get the academics in rpeschool.


And so, last December, we dove off the fence and into the kindergarten yard, and never looked back. Until today, the day we arrived for Kindergarten round-up. Until this day, I had fended off everyone, including my own mother about our decision, arguing that "she'll be fine. She's tall, she's bright, she knows almost all her letters and sounds, and yes, she's a little young but she's a diligent student, and she'll be just fine."

On kindergarten round-up day, I made a point to arrive early (a BIG stretch for me), and John even left work so he could attend this 2 hour ordeal of familiarizing ourselves with Shelby's soon-to-be new classroom, other students and their parents, and her soon-to-be daily routine.

Giddy and excited, we met her teacher, donned name tags, and wandered the classroom checking off our "homework tasks" for the afternoon. It was like being in munchkin land with a swarm of bees, you couldn't hear yourself think nor could you find a chair that fit both butt cheeks. I became nervous about how much time her teacher spent with her during their introduction, in comparison to some of the other new students. Would she remember Shelby? Did she recognize that my child was extra special? Would this be a precursor to the slip beneath the cracks of her future? Twenty one students, would Shelby be as important as the next one?

When we stepped outside to explore the "Kinder-Yard" I ran into an acquaintance, another mom who's son shares the same birthday as Shelby. The look on her face gave her away, "I'm not so sure about all this" it grimaced as she approached.

"So, how's it going?" I beamed, as John followed Shelby to the play structure.

"Ohh, I don't know," she sighed from between clenched teeth, "he seems okay right now....we met with the principal last week and agreed that this year would just be a "trial start" in case things don't go well for Justin here."

A 'trial start'? A complete non-commitment to the start of her son's education? How could she instill confidence in him if she was already wavering?

And before I could open my mouth and insert my opinionated foot, John walked over to say hi, leaving Shelby on the structure.

"Well," he said, "I think it'll definitely be a challenge for her."

"Really?" I asked, as though 'a challenge' wasn't allowed at her age, she's too young for that.

"She's definitely not as capable as some of those other kids on the play structure. That's for sure. Those monkey bars are going to be a big hurdle for her."

Shelby has always been a cautious child. Never one to throw herself into the face of danger, leap from tall buildings, hang from a bar intended for a monkey. She's not a super hero after all, she's FOUR! And besides, she was raised to be civilized, right? I mean, well, she'll be okay with all these kids, won't she?
And just like that, my rock of confidence splintered. She can't do everything the rest of the five year olds can. And then, that look on my friend's face, that "not so sure about all this" expression, became my own. Maybe I'm "not so sure about all this" either. After all, I've never been one for commitment. And while I turned over the words, "trial start" in my mind, Shelby dragged us back into the classroom to do more exploring.

A giant blond adolescent looking child approached, her name tag read, "Anna". She sidled up beside my little daughter, who turned to stare blankly at the girl's chest. This Anna was a giant in munchkin land.

"What would happen if this guinea pig got really big? So big it was the size of this room? And then we started poking it with sticks?" Anna laughed.
Not only was this kid big, she was aggressive. And then, as I watched this giant stare down my little Shelby, I felt the onset of a small avalanche, my rock began to crumble.
Later, I heard myself reminding her teacher that Shelby won't turn 5 until September, "She's a little young," I said. I could feel the words "trial start" crawling up the back of my throat but I slammed my mouth shut.
When all the children had left, and John was staring at his watch, I found my feet had suddenly grown roots. I didn't want to leave this classroom. This was the last moment of kindergarten round-up with my little girl. I blinked and it was over. And in that brief two hour period, not only had I grown roots, but that rock of confidence I rode in on was now a scattered mass of sand at my truncated feet. Am I....I mean, is she really ready for this?

1 comment:

H said...

Wow, tough decisions. I am grateful to read your thoughts and experiences about it. We have decided to start our daughter next year (when she is 4), even though she won't be 5 until November. Is it better to be challenged and young or older and wait? What about being 18 as a senior or 17? I guess we just do our best and love them and hold on for dear life. Keep us posted!