Is he ready?
It’s the question I’ve been asking myself for the last year. The question that’s literally kept me up at night, worrying and wondering and running through all the possible scenarios in my head.
I’ve mulled it over with my husband and talked my mom’s ear off about it. I’ve had conferences with preschool teachers. I’ve scoured comment threads in every one of my Facebook mom groups. I’ve chatted and commiserated with other mothers in the same boat.
Now the season for kindergarten round-ups is in full swing, and my newsfeed is full of proud moms posting pictures of their excited five-year-olds standing in front of their soon-to-be elementary schools and classrooms.
And yet, the answer still eludes me. It doesn’t feel that straightforward or simple.
My mama heart wonders: Is my son ready?
In some ways, yes.
In some ways, no.
Yes, he knows his letters and the sounds they make and how to write his name and how to count to 100 and follow two-step directions and listen to his teachers (despite suffering from temporary amnesia when this skill is required from his own mom, apparently).
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No, he’s not really capable of sitting still and focusing for long periods of time and being in a classroom from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and no, he doesn’t have any desire to go to elementary school and would happily play Barbies with his sister or outside in the dirt with his construction vehicles every day if could.
He’d probably be fine in kindergarten.
He’d be in the middle of the pack, I think.
But is fine enough?
Is the middle OK?
When I was planning to have kids, I never imagined how important the dates they were born would be outside of my own sentimental reasons—now here I am with one birthday in early April, and another in mid-July.
I know at the end of the day the kindergarten call might not change the trajectory of their lives, but also—it very well could. And that’s what gets me.
The difference between being young(ish) in his class and being the oldest could be big. The difference between struggling to understand certain concepts and already having mastered them could be impactful. The difference between being emotionally immature and emotionally more mature could be huge. On the flip side, the difference between being challenged and being bored could also affect him.
The difference between going to college at 18 vs. 19 could definitely be significant.
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There are already so many other things to consider that are completely outside my control, like the fact that kindergarten isn’t even remotely the same as when I went through it. The material I learned in kindergarten is stuff that kids these days are expected to have mastered in preschool.
You throw in a global pandemic that’s turned our entire education system topsy-turvy for the last two years and suddenly it’s clear as mud.
I guess what I really want to say is, there’s no way to know if the choice we’re making about kindergarten is the right one or not. There’s no way to gaze into a crystal ball and see how things will work out five or 10 years down the road. There’s no way to know if they’re ready, like really ready.
But I’m slowly realizing that, at the end of the day, it’s going to work out OK. Even if I don’t have all the answers. Even if I can’t control all the factors.
Even if he’s mostly ready, but a little bit not.
It’s going to be OK.
Because he has a mom who will always advocate for him.
Because he has a mom who wants what’s best for him.
Because he has a mom who cares.
And really, isn’t that the most important thing we can do for our kids as we send them on their journeys into the school-age years?
We can prepare them to the best of our abilities, we can make sure they have the support and resources they need, we can be ready to change course if needed, and humble ourselves enough to adapt if required.
We can try our hardest to make the decision that is right for them, given the information we have right now.
Then we can step back, let them take flight—
And see how it goes.
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Ultimately, we’ve decided on the middle option for our son for next year. That seems to be where he’s most comfortable right now—in the middle. We’re sending him to a half-day kindergarten program. He’ll be at a small school where he’ll get a lot of individualized attention and support. He can spend the afternoons at home or playing outside. He can still be a kid, and he can grow up a little.
It will be OK.
And if it’s not? We’ll figure it out together.
Now that we’ve made the call and my mind has been quieted and my heart has been soothed, I’m left to face perhaps the most important question of all—
He may be ready . . .
But am I?