In three more days, I could be sending you, my four year old son, off to Kindergarten. Your carefree days would be replaced with homework, inflexible schedules, and demands. You would no longer get to greet your five month older sister when she awakes from her naps or play with your Legos uninterrupted. You would no longer get to sleep until your body was ready to rise or enjoy the freedom of moving from one activity to another, from inside play to outside play, to quench your thirst without waiting in line or relieving your bladder without getting permission. Your thoughtful questions and inquisitive nature would likely go unappreciated due to the inquisitive nature of the other 25 children in your class. Your teacher, overwhelmed by the task of keeping order, a schedule, a checklist of expectations, will have limited time to interact deeply with her pupils on a personal level. It is not her fault really. She is likely a lovely person, one who finds joy in children even, but has been swallowed up by a system that craves accuracy, facts, and fill-in-the blank worksheets over “childish” things like playing and bonding.
I have wondered how many other moms and dads feel the knot in their throats, the pain in their stomachs, or the ache in their hearts as they prepare their children to begin school. And I wonder still how many of them have dismissed those intense, strong emotions, beat them back or even chastised themselves for being ‘silly’, telling themselves this is what children NEED to do, it is a ritual in our culture that has been romanticized, protected, and preserved- to a fault, I believe.
To all of that Dad and I have said, “No Thanks”. As different as this choice is from every one of our family members, as crazy as my friends think I am for not staying the course, as frightening as it may be to reject the norm, I am listening to my heart and even more importantly, I am listening to you. You do NOT want to leave our home, your family, your new sister or your toys for 7 hours a day. You are not interested in participating in school, sitting at a desk when you’d rather be running outside or gazing at the clouds. You do not want to stand in line as you walk down the hallway or be shushed when you are excited and want to share your latest discoveries. You still get sleepy as the day wears on and sometimes you just need to rest. I want you to be able to honor the rhythm of your internal clock, a rhythm that is your very own. You also need space, time to unwind or just sit quietly with your thoughts. This is not possible in a classroom full of kids, especially when the culture of the classroom pushes sharing and being with a ‘buddy’ over your individualism. To top it all off, your heart is tender and you are a wise soul. You pick up on people’s energy and their moods. You don’t do well with aggressive, loud kids and you tend to enjoy the company of older children. The impulsive behavior of same aged peers has proven time and time again to be difficult for you. It would take a patient, kind-hearted adult to effectively work with you during one of your emotional episodes, which can be draining and upsetting, even for me. I just want to keep you in tact, as much as possible—emotionally whole, sound, with strong character and a thirst for learning. I know you will read, take in facts and figures, but just on a different time frame than the majority of your peers, but it’s a time frame I’m willing to support.
It will be worth every second.
(My son is now 12. I still have not shared this letter with him, but I’m sure one day, when the time is right, I absolutely will)