Zachary will turn five in September. Perhaps that does not seem like much of an issue to you, in which case you probably don’t live in California or do not have children. If however, you do happen to be raising children in the Golden State, then you know exactly what is going on in our house. Each night, after we lasso the children into the bath, negotiate pajama colors, read several annoying books about Disney Princesses, and give the baby one last feeding, my husband and I snuggle up for a little adult time, which we use just as you would imagine we do.
We discuss kindergarten.
Because California’s cutoff is one of the latest in the country, Zach makes it by several months and is eligible to start in September. Cognitively the child is ready. And I mean ready. He is a sharp little cookie. With emphasis on “little.” Is it OK to send a kid to kindergarten while he is still wearing size 3T? Wouldn’t it be easier to just affix that “kick me” sign to his back ourselves, instead of waiting for the class bully to do it?
“I’d like to see a list of their kindergarten birthdays,” J tells me. But it will just tell us what we already know: Zach is destined either to be among the oldest or among the youngest children in his class. No matter how much we discuss it, he is never going to be in the middle.
He is the type of child who will dumb himself down to fit in, so he should be with older children. He gets anxious in a group, so he should be with younger children. He mimics the other kids’ behavior, so he behaves better if he is the youngest. He is sensitive about teasing, so he is safer if he is the oldest.
What if, in a few years, we move to a state with an earlier cutoff, making him the youngest by far? What if he hits puberty early and he is already the oldest in the class?
We sit here, waiting for the right answer to come crashing through the roof and hit us on the heads. This hasn’t happened yet, and I am starting to have this sinking feeling that perhaps there is no right answer. Maybe, like everything else in parenting, this is a lesson in how limited is our control over their lives.
Or maybe I could ask you all to give your opinions so we have more fodder for tonight’s episode of The Great Kindergarten Debate.