Riley has what I suppose is his first best friend, a boy named A. whose family moved here from India a couple years ago. They are in the same preschool class and I suspect A.’s interest in Transformers has a lot to do with Riley’s current obsession with Autobots and Decepticons and “Octomus Prime” and Bumblebee and Oh My God There Are So Many Fucking Transformers I Can’t Even Name Them All Oh Wait Yes I Can Buzzsaw Hound Ratchet Starscream Etc Etc Etc Etc.

A’s mother was nice enough to propose a play date a while back and we’ve met them a few times since, usually on a weekend afternoon at a playground where Riley and A. can go nuts and Dylan can scurry after them, beaming with the deranged joy of a younger brother getting to play with the big kids.

Last Sunday we congregated at a park so Riley and A. could ride bikes (with Dylan toodling around on his tricycle) and A’s mom asked us where Riley was going to school next year. A. would be moving on to kindergarten at a public school; was Riley?

Well, I said, and kind of trailed off for a minute.

The thing is, we don’t plan to do that, and it suddenly felt like an awkward conversation, like the fact that we were making different choices somehow underscored that one was right and one was wrong. I mean, I know better, but still.

Riley’s birthday is August 31st, so he will be five on the cutoff day for kindergarten. Which means we could send him to regular kindergarten, but he would be the very youngest child in class.

I have no doubts he would do perfectly fine academically, because he’s a smart kid who mastered the basics a long time ago. I’m less sure about his maturity level, his emotions, and his ability to pay attention.

His center has a kindergarten program, so he can stay there another year and get the same level of education he’d get in a regular school. It’s another year of siphoning our checking account nearly dry every month, but of course public kindergarten with before and after school care wouldn’t be inexpensive either. That’s another thing: I really, really hope by the time he is going to public school—the big cheery-looking one just a few blocks away, assuming we still live in the area—that we have the sort of schedule that allows one of us to walk him over there in the morning and pick him up in the afternoon. I don’t want him to have to stay after school is over, waiting for one of his parents to get off work.

Anyway, I hope we’re doing the right thing keeping him in the same place for now. I’m kind of saddened to think about his best friend moving on while Riley stays in the same place, but they would have separated anyway. It’s just hard to know who will be getting the better experience. And how much it varies by kid, and by teacher, and by a thousand other factors that are impossible to predict.

In other confusing developmental news, Dylan has decided he is terrified of lawnmowers. The trigger for this happened a couple weeks ago when someone had a leaf blower nearby and the noise scared the shit out of him. He flips out every time we leave the house, crying and screaming and wanting to be carried, and if there is even a distant drone of a lawnmower—which is nonstop this time of year while the grass is growing like gangbusters—he refuses to be outside. Last weekend, when we finally had two consecutive days of amazing weather, I couldn’t get him to come in the backyard at all. If we forced it, he stood there shrieking until I thought he was going to barf.

I’d put headphones on him, but, well, HA HA HA HA no. This is the same kid who will Firestarter your face off if you try and put his hood up, so.

It reminds me of the stage Riley went through where he was scared of planes flying overhead, and man, that went on for a long time. I don’t think anything helped, it was weeks of screaming and running across the backyard to get away from the jet buzzing 25,000 feet above his head.

So! Any advice or war stories about kindergarten cutoffs and whether to send a kid or hold them back, or toddlers who refuse to go outside right when the weather finally lets us leave the damn house? Or if neither of those topics interests you, how about potty training, because hey, I’m kind of flailing at that, too.


180 Responses to “Milestones and indecision”

  1. wordygirl on May 12th, 2010 9:47 am

    If I were in the same position as you, I’d be making the same decision.

    Here in BC, full-day kindergarten is starting this year in 50% of the schools, and will be in 100% of the schools by the time my daughter starts in a couple of years.

    The next recommendation by the Early Learning Agency is fully-subsidized care/academic programs for 3- and 4-year-olds. As in, free preschool. I’m hoping that one comes into effect in time for my daughter (and my bank account) to take advantage of, too.

  2. Sundry on May 12th, 2010 10:02 am

    You guys, thank you SO MUCH for your comments on this. It’s been really interesting, and in more than one case, comforting to hear what you have to say. Thanks for sharing all your stories.

    (Lastly, to Sound Body, Sound Mind: let a 2-yo “root around” … IN A LAWNMOWER. Heh. I have to say, I did not think of that.)

  3. Lisa on May 12th, 2010 10:26 am

    My middle son’s birthday is August 8th. We kept him back one year and I think it was a good decision. When Riley gets into sports, that extra year will be helpful and the maturity will be a benefit too! My guy really had trouble sitting still even with the extra year, but would have been a mess if I’d started him when he was five.

    Just trust your instincts. You’ve done great so far!

  4. Tia on May 12th, 2010 10:29 am

    My daughter’s birthday is August 13th. Her preschool teachers gave her rave reviews and thought she would do great in kindergarten. But I wanted to keep her home another year for the simple fact that her brother who is 23 months older than her would only be a year ahead of her in school. So with everybody saying I was nuts for not sending her, including my husband, I flat out asked her teachers for ONE good reason to keep her home. They asked us one simple question. “Do you want a leader or a follower?” With that one question it changed my husband’s mind about sending her. She is in 4th grade now and I have never regretted my decision. She is a leader. Everything I wish I would have been when I was her age.
    It is to date the hardest and most thought out choice I’ve made as a parent. You have no idea how happy I was when our 3rd (surprise baby) was born in October!
    As for potty training.. he rocks at home and does bad outside of the house. So with his brother and sister’s baseball/softball/soccer schedule I’m thinking it might be awhile till we stop spending our money on those piss traps. I’m not to worried, I’ve never seen kids in kindergarten wearing diapers. And heck he won’t be going there till he’s almost 6 so he’s got plenty of time….hee.
    And thank you for throwing the subject out there. I need to go read all of the advice from your lovely readers and see if I can use any of their tricks!

  5. beach on May 12th, 2010 10:30 am

    I say trust your instincts also. You know your child the best. My 2 cents though would to say I think your plan sounds like a good one. My friend had a son that fell into the same birthday slot. She put him in kindergarten…things went ok till about 2nd grade, when she opted to hold him back at that stage(much more traumatic). Maturity wise he was falling far behind. I think also with boys, that added year held back makes a huge difference.

  6. Anonymous on May 12th, 2010 12:52 pm

    Firestarter your face off!

    Haha!! Good stuff right there.

  7. Kristin on May 12th, 2010 12:56 pm

    I’m not going to reinvent the wheel, here – I think its well established that a MAJOR component of learning IS maturity, or readiness, if you will, and time and again we see that those children who are on the bubble generally benefit from “staying back”.

    My daughter falls into this category – missed the cutoff by 3 days, but I am thankful – she will have that advantage of maturity – not only in education/learning, but also in sports/activities (and its not because I want her to “beat up” on the younger ones or I am intentionally stacking her against younger/smaller kids, but seriously, from a maturity & physically developmental standpoint, it WILL be a benefit for her)…, we get to keep her home another year – and I’ll take every minute of additional maturity I can get before sending her out “on her own”

    And let’s not overlook THIS important fact –
    that’s an EXTRA year of saving for college!!! :) :) :) :)

  8. Sound Body, Sound Mind on May 12th, 2010 1:02 pm

    Haha…root around may not have been the best choice of words – you know, use common sense, but still – I’m for exploring. A toy lawn mower just isn’t the same.

    But I’m also not in the new-millenium mom tribe – I never tied my son to me with a scarf (I’m sure those slings have a name) or had a mom blog or took him to swim lessons. I taught him to swim myself. Never read a parenting book, didn’t breast feed (but I don’t feed my kid animal parts either) and got my son a bow & arrow when he was 10. We ran our first 5k together when he was 11. I’m all about getting out there and tearing it up. I had a ball being a mom to a little one.

    Good luck!

  9. Amy on May 12th, 2010 1:19 pm

    You’ve probably heard it all by now but I’ll share anyway. Nick is just getting ready to “graduate” from preschool. He is a late October baby and although the school his older brother attends would have allowed him to start kinder this year, we chose to keep him in preschool to allow his maturity to catch up to his brain. Best decision we ever made!! He is vastly different than he was this time last year and I think he will be much more successfull. I think girls are a different story but with boys I think you’re making the right choice. As for afterschool care, lots of kids do it. I chose not to this year and my 2nd grader has actually asked to stay a few times so he can run around with his friends.

    Lawnmowers….no idea. My 8yo still used to run in the house if dad was mowing the lawn. Then suddenly a couple of weeks ago he got interested and dad let him help…now he wants to mow the lawn! Wasn’t anything I did!

    And don’t ask me about pottytraining. One of the reasons I love love love my daycare/preschool is because they did it!! I just got on board with their suggestions. Although I didn’t listen to their suggestion of no pull-ups at bedtime and I have created my own hell.

  10. wm on May 12th, 2010 1:28 pm

    Re: the potty training, I’d say go for it if you are ready to ditch the work and expense of diapers. We daytime trained our son at 24 months. We’d been using a potty since 6 months. But the secret in finishing the training for good was to ditch the diapers. I asked my son to help package them up and told him he was a big boy now and no longer needed them. We had several accidents, especially in the first month. But it’s the accidents that taught him that it’s unpleasant to go in your pants. We had to overcome our reluctance to deal with the accidents and let him learn for himself. Also, we regularly offer him chances to use the potty. At 29 months, daytime diapers already seem like a distant memory – and the pants fit so much better!

  11. Anonymous on May 12th, 2010 1:44 pm

    Hold him back. My oldest son who is now a junior in high school was the youngest in his class and although he was on track academically he struggled in the maturity department. Not until middle school did it all straighten out. On the flip side his younger brother started kindergarten on the older side and there was never an issue academically or socially. Boys tend to mature later than girls so I think holding them back in the lower grades is the way to go.


  12. cakeburnette on May 12th, 2010 1:50 pm

    Absolutely no words of advice on potty-training. My son didn’t completely potty-train until he was 6. (He’s 13 now and is fully potty-trained now, but for many years we were very worried). He is “gifted.” He did NOT go to public school kindergarten. Not because he is “gifted” and it wasn’t good enough, but because he’s the world’s most immature boy and needed another year of a small-class setting to be ready to succeed in public school. If that’s what feels right for your son, it IS right. Each child is different. We’ve never regretted our choice. His sister who is 15 months younger? Now SHE went to all-day public school kindergarten and thrived. Different strokes for different folks! :)

  13. L on May 12th, 2010 2:30 pm

    No kinder pays attention! If you want to send him to kindergarten @ public school -send him to school, if you don’t keep him in daycare.

    Will you start him in 1st grade the next year if he does kinder @ daycare? Or will he do kinder @ public school the year after kinder @ daycare?

    I started kinder @ 4 years old (my birthday is in October) so I was 4 when everyone else was 5 – then they all turned 6 while I was still 5…and…it was OK.

    I’m sure you’ll make the right choice (and isn’t it too late to get into public school now anyway? I know in Seattle, where I live – there is serious competition for certain schools).

  14. andrea on May 12th, 2010 2:56 pm

    I really appreciate this conversation. We’ve got a 7/31 birthday here and although we’ve still got a year of pre-k left at his current school (he’ll be 4 this July) I have already started fretting about the decision. If our current plan prevails, he’ll go to kindergarten the following fall and be one of the young ones in class. Our thinking is that after 4 years of preschool he’ll be ready for a change and what is the worst that can happen, we re-do kindergarten again the following year, or pull him after the first week if it proves to be too much. We are in the unique situation that most of his close friends are also summer birthdays and will be starting at the same time as he will so the class will be young regardless. I do plan to talk to both his teacher and parent educator next winter and have them do an evaluation, so our decision is by no means set in stone.
    It seems crazy to me that in 1981 when I started kindergarten with a 10/18 birthday I could have started at 4 years old, seems as though things have swung from starting kids early to the majority of parents holding kids back a year.

  15. Lesley on May 12th, 2010 6:24 pm

    This isn’t quite the impractical fear of lawnmowers but I once knew a four year old who was terrified of The Flintstones. (He’s now a tattoo artist who admires Giger.)

    I remember myself being afraid of corner grocery stores after seeing a bloody wrestling magazine cover in one. I decided all grocers were evil after that.

    For kids, the world really is a fairy tale place. On the one hand, magical (Horse!) and on the other horrifying (Lawnmower!).

    I wonder, does Dylan like motorcycles? They make a racket.

  16. Melissa on May 12th, 2010 8:14 pm

    If you have any doubts keep him home. You will thank yourself at age 12 and every year after and then again when he goes off to college. Frontal lobe development is no joke. :-p Give him the gift of time with no regrets.

  17. Nila on May 13th, 2010 2:47 am

    Every kid is so different. My son turned 5 in Oct. so he started kindergarten at 4. He was very small for his age the the people at his preschool treated him like he was much younger and they’d carry him around like a baby. He was so cute.
    That is why I pushed him into Kindergarten early. I wanted him to be treated like other kids his age, regardless of his size and that’s exactly what we got. We never regret starting him early, he flourished and did very well. It’s not as if Kindergarten is that intense academically or socially for that matter.

    Ha! Looking back, that phase was so easy. Now as for 7th grade. Oy Vay! That is a tough age. Puberty and all that good stuff. I want my kindergartner back.

  18. Nila on May 13th, 2010 2:51 am

    I must add that my son went to a Montessori school which really does cater to a kids individual needs, so that might have helped. Good luck! These choices are never easy.

  19. Amalah on May 13th, 2010 6:36 am

    Noah will be five on Sept. 30th, and our school district’s cut-off is Sept. 1. So kindergarten isn’t even remotely on the table for him next year, which is such, SUCH a good thing. There’s no way he’s ready. Obviously Noah has a whole set of “other” things going on that Riley doesn’t, but it still boils down to: Smart But Freaking Immature Kid.

    I think you’re doing the right thing.

    No idea about the lawnmower fear…a bubble mower that he can supply his own non-scary sound effects for? (Or, you know, thoroughly traumatize him MORE YAY.)

  20. Jen on May 13th, 2010 11:06 am

    I’m going to jump in on the lawn mower fear. Ugh.

    My daughter when she was Dylan’s age suddenly became afraid of coming in to the kitchen. So so strange. At first we would force her in but the freak out was just not worth it so eventually we just stopped talking about it and let her come around when ready. Weeks passed. Then one day my parents came to visit and she just naturally followed them into the kitchen and all has been fine since.

    So I’m thinking, and this is hard I know, but maybe Dad and Riley can go out and play and make a big show of having a good time?? Or you can invite friends and family over for a BBQ to help distract from him hearing so much but he’ll be outside and having fun ??

    It sucks. I know. It’ll pass.

  21. MyFrogs on May 13th, 2010 12:39 pm

    My youngest’s bday is Aug 18, she’s probably the ABSOLUTE youngest in her class. She’ll turn 10 in Aug and her best friend turns 11 a few months later in Oct. While her young age coupled with ADHD have made for some challenging times. Her teacher and I agreed in the fall that there were multiple things going on with her behavior, her immaturity being one of them. But at this point it is what it is. But at the time I didn’t even think about holding her back from kindergarten. All I can say is do what you think is best for your situation.

  22. neena on May 14th, 2010 2:22 pm

    My son is in the same situation! He’ll be five August 10th and school here actually starts August 2nd. We have decided, after much debate, to enroll him in kindergarten. We honestly believe he’ll be bored if we keep in him preschool another year. His teachers insist that since he’s a boy with a summer birthday he should be given more time to mature. But, I’m not betting my son’s love of learning on a year of maturity. I really believe that he’ll be bored and unchallenged in preschool for another year. Many tell me that he’ll be the youngest in the group – well, yes he will if everyone else is holding back. But, I’m not one to do what everyone else does. And, I’m not holding him back just because it’s easier on teachers. Some hold back for sports reasons. Well, I’m not betting my sons future on the possibility that he’ll maybe one day want to play sports. For now he’s going to kindergarten. He passed the screening process with flying colors, and he’s very excited to go to a new school. You couldn’t pay me enough to kill that with another year of preschool!

  23. neena on May 14th, 2010 2:30 pm

    and one more thing – I hear many people talk about leaders and followers. My son is neither. He marches to the beat of his own drummer and always has. It’s one of the qualities I love most about him. Sometimes these kids just don’t fit into these boxes of reasons. That’s why the decision needs to be made on an individual basis. Good luck.

  24. kim on May 14th, 2010 9:58 pm

    Not reading all the comments (my eyes were bleeding) – but my daughter missed the cutoff by 10 days – but I could have sent her to a private school in the area that had a different cut-off. I talked to people about it who said waiting was the better choice – hey: you get an extra year with them! and I agree on most every front – many positives for waiting. The fact that academically she would probably be happier to be a year ahead (she’s always bored at school) does make me wonder sometimes if I made the right choice – but all in all, I wouldn’t change it.

  25. M on May 15th, 2010 10:59 am

    I know I’m days late on this, but I had to chime in. I teach kindergarten at a childcare center (a nationwide chain) and, without knowing Riley personally, am as certain as I can be that your instinct and your decision is the correct one. This year, 80% of my class is composed of children who missed or barely made the kindergarten cutoff age for their public school district. You are, by far, not the only parent making this decision, and Riley is unlikely to be the oldest child in his kindergarten class next year.

    When I began teaching three years ago, I strongly disagreed with the practice of holding children back who were technically of kindergarten attendance age, but I have made a complete about face on the issue. In my experience, it is extremely difficult to tell the difference between the nearly-six-year-olds and the barely-five-year-olds in the fall when kindergarten begins; by springtime, the difference is dramatic. The older children conduct themselves differently, are better able to attend to tasks, are less emotional, and have fewer outbursts. The younger children are still wiggly and tantrum-prone, and the quality of their work is noticably different (fine motor skills simply take time to develop).

    My class size is considerably smaller than in public school and my program is full-day, which affords me the luxury of having time to really work with my students on social skills and self-regulation, not to mention the ability to work one-on-one with children to better meet their academic needs. Children grow by leaps and bounds, and it is possible that over the course of the year in private kindergarten, Riley will just blossom in those areas that are causing concern. All of my young kindergartners are more than ready to succeed in public school kindergarten in the fall, and a few have actually become emotionally, socially, and academically ready for first grade.

    Best of luck to you and Riley!

  26. megan on May 16th, 2010 6:20 am

    I had problems with that too. My daughter is very old in her class. I really wanted to move her up in kindergarten. So in this I have talked to numerous teachers who all say with boys they should stay back that one year. I have a friend who did it with her boy and never ever regretted the decision. Good luck

  27. dcfullest on May 16th, 2010 6:42 pm

    I work with kids and I tell every mom struggling to make this decision this:
    I was born two weeks before the deadline and went to kindergarten on time. My sister was born barely after the cut-off and she was held back. We both turned out fine. Whatever you do, it will be okay.

  28. LJ on May 17th, 2010 11:10 am

    I had the same thing with my daughter (and I know that girls mature faster than boys). Cut off date was Sept 30 and her birthday was Sept 24. She was the youngest in her class. Academically she was fine. We didn’t notice anything till about 7th through 9th grade with her maturity level, but if I had it to do over again, I’d probably still do the same thing…. AND she turned out fine – she is now a senior in college –

  29. Karla on May 17th, 2010 2:25 pm

    Just to add to the chorus: we held my ‘cutoff’ kid back a year and it was all good. Now he’s a junior in high school and all his senior friends – the kids he played baseball and went to summer camp with (age segregated activities with different cutoff dates) – are graduating, taking senior trips, leaving for college. Needless to say, he feels kinda abandoned and bored with the thought of yet another year of high school. Could be a tough senior year for him. I still think it was the right thing to do though, even if it does catch up with us in the end. Could be a good life lesson in delayed gratification. We’ll see.

  30. Nicole on May 19th, 2010 1:05 pm

    If you can swing it financially, I’m all for waiting if you have any doubts about his readiness. You know your kid and it’s important to set him up for success in school. Obviously academics aren’t an issue at this young age but self confidence and nurturing a passion for learning is paramount. And other than the expense, I don’t see a downside to waiting another year.

    On the subject of odd toddler phobias… My Riley (turning 2 next week) was terrified of a roller skating Santa Claus someone gave us two Christmases ago. If we even made the slightest move toward the on switch, he would get hysterical screaming, “NOOOO! Ho Ho Ho!” We threw it in the trash after several unsuccessful attempts at desensitizing him and a terrible incident where he accidentally came upon its hiding (lurking) place in the back of our closet. I honestly thought Riley’s head was going to explode from sheer terror. Sometimes (still) when he awakens at night crying from a nightmare and I ask him what scared him he says, “Dare-wuz a ssssound!”

    “What sound?”

    “The Ho Ho Ho!”

    Apparently Freddy Krueger aint got nothing on Roller Skating Santa!

Leave a Reply