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Challenge: Finding Your Voice as a Parent

The Kindergarten Debate: Is My Child Ready Or Should She Wait A Year?

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It was a quiet hallway, with just a few chairs sitting outside each door. The usual giggles of preschool children was absent on this day. Instead, an eerie silence enveloped the space. I found myself nervously tapping my foot as I sat outside my daughter’s classroom, waiting for what felt like judgment day. Was my daughter ready for Kindergarten or should we hold her back?

It was just one year ago when I left this very same hallway in tears, realizing my daughter struggled with things that might come easier to other children. It’s with good reason, I reminded myself. My daughter is our lone surviving triplet, born more than 17 weeks premature. Weighing only one pound, her frail lungs and heart made us unsure of whether she would even survive the first night. She not only survived, she has thrived.

A year ago, she was mostly “average” and her speech appeared to be the biggest hurdle. Like many other children, she knew what she wanted to say, but her brain couldn’t communicate quickly with her mouth. For most of her life, my husband and I assumed we would hold our daughter back in school. We never thought our “22 weeker” would catch up to her peers. Most babies born as young as her face a lifetime of physical and developmental disabilities. Not our child. In the past year, our daughter has gained confidence, matured and surprised us academically.

As my mind wandered to last year’s meeting, my daughter’s preschool teacher called my name. I walked inside the classroom and sat in a seat, in the same place where my daughter loves to learn. We began to pore through her progress over the past few months. Her writing, her comprehension and her communication were all being judged. It was only preschool, yet I felt as if her future was being laid out like a college entrance application.

“Your daughter is testing average, or above average in some areas,” my daughter’s teacher said. “I think your child is ready for Kindergarten.”

The tears welled up as the teacher shared news we never expected to hear. We chatted about my child’s future and I left down the hallway in a haze of happiness. Even though we were ecstatic in that moment, my husband and I now face a dilemma—do we send our daughter to school on time?

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The more Kindergarten becomes part of my vocabulary, the more I hear about the “Kindergarten Debate”. Everyone seems to have an opinion about whether my child is ready for school and they seem to come out of the woodwork to share it. Friends, family, even strangers at the grocery store have offered a plethora of unsolicited advice. Yes, my daughter will be 5 years old before the cut-off, yes she has an early summer birthday. Yes, I know that there is nothing wrong with holding her back. The random advice is enough to make my head explode!

Here’s the thing: my husband and I are her parents. We know our child better than anybody else and we will always have her best interest at heart. As I am told what I should and shouldn’t do with my child, it makes me question my parenting. Am I a bad parent if I decide to send my child to Kindergarten on time? Or am I hurting my daughter’s growth if I give her another year of preschool? Would it be the end of the world if she ends up repeating Kindergarten? There are so many unanswered questions, but that’s part of life. Parenting is not easy. It’s full of following your gut and being okay with making mistakes. That’s what makes us better parents, we learn and adjust along the way.

Each child is different. What might work for one kid, may not work for another. My husband and I have some big decisions to make in the coming months. Everyone has an opinion when it comes to the Kindergarten debate and I know most people mean well. But in the end, the opinions that matter the most are my husband’s and my own. Our daughter is achieving more than we ever imagined and we’ll always be proud of her, no matter what her future entails.

A version of this originally appeared at Her View From Home.

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