If you are the parent of a little boy right at the birthdate cut off for public school, it’s not too late to wait. My son’s birthday was a day before the deadline. He started public school at four years old.
I had absolutely no idea people held their kids back if they were close to the deadline. It never occurred to me to have him wait another year to allow him time to get more mature. It certainly never crossed my mind to “red shirt” him for sports.
It was harder for me to navigate a school carline for the first time–to pull up and drop off my firstborn on his first day of school–than it was for him as a four year old. They wouldn’t let us walk them in. On the second day of school, I sent him in with cupcakes for his fifth birthday. Back then we could send sweets.
He was a mature little man. I was a single mom. It was just me and him. He had walked me down the aisle and gained a stepdad. Later we welcomed his baby sister who was born with special needs. I had a few distractions from not stopping to consider the option of holding him back.
He was a chatty little boy. He and his buddy couldn’t keep their hands to themselves. I suggested separating them in line and not let them sit beside each other. It was after Christmas before he earned a whole month of smiley faces. Okay, it was February, a short month. As a reward I treated him to Build-A-Bear. I framed that calendar.
The Suggestion to Hold Him Back
His young kindergarten teacher approached this Momma Bear with the suggestion to hold him back. That wasn’t happening.
Instead I took him to a reading tutor. Later an evaluation indicated he had ADD.
Fast forward through all his years of school. Should I have held him back? Do I wish I had? Does he?
The chatty kid with ADD became a quick-witted introvert who rarely spoke except among his selective handful of close friends. He fit in to the extent he chose to. Holding him back would not have been a match socially.
Academically, he excelled to the extent he chose to apply himself. Holding him back would not have changed his academic performance.
Athletically, of course, he was bigger and stronger a year later. He would have had more playing time if we had “red shirted” him.
Logistically, everyone else started to drive before him. They all got registered to vote at school. Many took senior trips where it’s legal to drink at 18.
All in all, not holding him back was a fit for him. It didn’t hit me until I was making the long drive home from his last high school football game. A part of his life that he enjoyed so much was over.
Did I Rob Him of a Year of His Childhood?
Did I cheat him out of one more year of doing what he loved? Did I rob him of a year of his childhood?
Ultimately, I don’t regret not holding him back. He doesn’t either. But I wish I had thought . . . to think through it all back then.
He could have been at the same school when his younger sisters began. One less year of two school car lines. Rushing to beat the tardy bells.
You Still Have Time
If you have a boy near the birthdate cut off, you still have time. Think through what being a year younger than his classmates could mean physically, socially, academically, and athletically.
How does it affect your family logistically? Mornings, afternoons, siblings, childcare, and college expenses? If you decide to wait and hold him back a year, my opinion is to do it in a private kindergarten before starting public school. Allow him the opportunity to establish friendships with his classmates.
This Decision Won’t Be Easy
We second guess ourselves with most parenting decisions. The one reason I would go back and hold him back if I could? To give him one more year of his childhood.