I’ve been struggling lately with a parenting conundrum, and by struggling, I mean I’ve been a stressed-out, half-hysterical mess. What’s gotten this momma bear wanting to pull out tufts of hair?
In short, school and a daughter who is already not fitting into the expected mold. If you have a child of around preschool age, you’ve read the articles and seen the discussions about red-shirting children who are not quite ready to start school at five-years-old. They are held back for a year and given additional time to mature. I’ve read those articles and heard the arguments and still feel like I’m facing a slightly different situation.
Before I get into this discussion, I’d like to start with a disclaimer reminding my readers that I do not invalidate any parents’ decisions on this, nor any other subject. I feel quite strongly that the parents are largely the ones who know their children’s strengths and weaknesses the best. So, for the purpose of this discussion, please assume I have the same level of understanding of my child.
My daughter, Lillie, is three-years-old and will be turning four in October. Lillie has proven time and again that she is ahead of the curve in many areas, primarily those oriented towards critical thinking. So much so, that I am going to have her assessed to see how far advanced she may be and what her needs will be in the future. This might seem a bit much for a three- going on four-year-old, but I assure you, I feel it is necessary because of…you guessed it…her birthday.
Lillie’s birthday has been the cause of stress and worry for me for the past year.
Not because I can’t decide what bouncy house she should have or if she will get spoiled by the inevitable stack of gifts form the grandparents. Instead, I find myself wishing desperately that I could have conceived earlier and birthed my smart little nugget before August.
This may seem like a drastic and odd wish, but I feel like we are going to be struggling for years to come because of a simple date on the calendar. This not-so-simple date has determined that Lillie will start kindergarten at the age of six. This might not seem like a problem after reading all those articles and talking to other parents who have red-shirted children, but let me assure you, I feel with every atom in my body that it will be.
In other words, my mommy/spidey senses are a-tingling and I’m listening.
Lillie’s amazing capacity to learn and study the world around her is a wonderful, beautiful blessing; this is a great problem to have, but it is also a problem that we have. It wouldn’t be quite so dramatic of an issue if she were to be starting preschool right now to prepare for kindergarten next year. However, we are in an official year of limbo.
Here’s my fear: I am afraid that by the time we start school at the age of six, my daughter will be reading chapter books, doing some math that makes me a bit twitchy, and generally ready for more. I also know that my daughter, when she is not stimulated, tends to get a little tetchy. What do I mean by this? Imagine a bored tornado that swings from F1 to F5 depending on mood.
In every activity/program we have ever attended, my little twister loves to be challenged. She thrives when she is around older children whom she can strive to keep up with. In groups that aren’t as dynamic, she quickly loses interest and starts finding new, less-productive, and sometimes downright disruptive ways to entertain herself. I know when she starts begging to leave or to not go in the first place, that we’ve come to the point where she is asking for more.
Again, you will have to trust me here. I know that some will argue that maybe she is over stimulated and needs less or that her youth is too precious to waste on early education and expectations. With my next child, if I’m lucky enough to have one, maybe that is how will feel for him or her. However, this is Lillie and she is the one directing my actions right now.
She is asking for more and I am trying desperately to provide it, while taking into consideration all those articles screaming for her not to be over stimulated or put into developmentally inappropriate situations. I’m struggling to find a supportive balance and my hands are largely tied by the current system of birthday-oriented categorization that doesn’t allow for variation. So, what are we going to do?
The answer: I don’t know.
This is why I am so stressed right now. However, I’m working through the panic and attempting to find a place of focus. I will take it one step at a time and hope that, with the current resources available, I will be able to figure out the best plan for my child because I want her to love learning and to thrive.
As I figure out each step along the way, I’ll be sure to report back because I know I’m not the only one facing this conundrum. I’m not the only mother who looks at her child and knows with all her being, that the current path is not the right one. I know I’m not the only one who sees that a birthday is not the only factor in making decisions for a child. I’m not the only one scared to death that she will make the wrong decision and the result will rest solely on her shoulders.