Once upon a time, there was a boy and a girl who were twins. They were best friends, attached at the hip, and had never been separated for more than a couple of hours at a time. They were young for their academic peer group; late Fall babies, who also happened to be tiny for their age. Although these kids were smart, curious, and ahead of the developmental curve when it came to learning things, they were emotionally and physically very young compared with their classmates.
And so, their mom worried.
“What are you worried about?? They’re smart kids…” people would tell her.
She worried because her kids were shy in unfamiliar situations; she worried because her kids were emotionally still little babies; she worried because they had never been apart. And she faced a decision that meant that not only would they be placed in a setting that was huge and unfamiliar (public school), and amongst kids who were a fair bit older than they were, but they would also be forced to separate for the first time in their lives.
– On the negative side, people called her ridiculous because apparently, only “rich people” hold their kids back. Others thought it was symptomatic of an overbearing parent who wanted to give their kids the physical edge despite not needing it. More constructively, some encouraged her to “push” her kids to venture outside of their comfort zones.
– On the positive side, the message was universal and came from parents who had made the same decision in the past – they all said that they didn’t regret for even a moment holding their kids back because their kids never suffered from it.
Entitlement and “edge” were the last things on her mind as it related to holding her kids back – what looped on repeat in her head was a vision of her very young kids in school at the age when kids go through puberty. Her mind’s eye saw her son as a little boy who had not yet experienced puberty sitting in class next to what effectively looked like a grown man who had.
Middle school sucked…my kids wouldn’t stand a chance.
And so, she waffled.
Her practical side wanted to send them through to Kindergarten as scheduled – money and academic boredom were at the front of her mind. Her emotional side wanted her kids to be ready, well-adjusted and happy both now and in the future. She ended up registering them for Kindergarten anyhow and went back and forth all.summer.long on what to do. On the last possible day to withdraw registration, she hit the SEND button on an email that said, “Please withdraw my children from this year’s Kindergarten class” and cringed when she received the response that said, “Withdrawal confirmed.”
Then something magical happened.
Suddenly, her daughter didn’t whine every single morning as soon as she woke up. Suddenly, her kids were mostly well-behaved all the time (albeit age appropriately naughty). Suddenly, her kids weren’t so shy whenever they were dropped off for [fill in the blank]. The pleasant change in their demeanor was noticeable, immediate, and drastic.
One day as the kids were getting ready for bed, her son said, “Nicky loves dinosaurs, too. He doesn’t know as much about dinosaurs as I do, and so I teach him.” Her daughter piped in with, “Yeah, and Chloe has trouble with her numbers, and so I like to help her.” While they discussed the other kids in class, she came to the realization that her children were now no longer the youngest in class; on the contrary, they were the oldest.
The next day when she dropped her kids off at school, she mentioned this in passing to the teacher and the teacher said, “Yes, your kids are like the little Mayors of the class. They are confident leaders, and love to teach the other kids the things that they already know.”
And so it goes that a mom actually followed her gut instinct to do what she knew in her heart was right for her kids despite what other people said, and her kids were better off for it…and they all lived happily ever after.