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Mommy Musings

Tough Decisions And Heartbreak

POSTED May 19, 2009 4:42 p.m.
My two children are still very young. This June they will reach the prime ages of two and five. The lessons they still have yet to learn in life, decision-making and heartbreak are all well ahead of them.
Now as a parent, I, too, am navigating my way through uncharted territory and as I have said before and will say many times here after, I am learning just as they are.
“Mommy how come I’m not graduating?” my pre-schooler recently asked before placing his head on his pillow and falling asleep.
This is May, after all, and whether you have a student in pre-school or college, everyone in the Valley has been preparing for graduation. And while my son’s pending birthday would indicate he should be graduating with all his classmates, my husband and I are not exactly sure that is the right choice for him at this time.
While our pre-school director, as well as my son’s teacher agree with our decision to potentially hold him back a year, he is still registered to start Kindergarten in the fall.
“This is a pivotal age,” the director has reminded me on many occasions. “They can start summer in one frame of mind and then something just clicks and you may see that he is ready.”
Sharp, kindhearted, sensitive and bright are all words people tend to use when describing him. When it comes to maturity, however, he is every bit his four years and 11 months. He still has much to learn in the way of interacting with not only his friends, but the classroom environment as well.
Seven years ago, one of my many mentor moms had to face this tough decision with her own son. Back then it was not popular or trendy to start your child in Kindergarten at six, however my girlfriend just felt it was the right decision for her child.
Last year her youngest son reached the age of five in July and again she was faced with the decision of when to have him start Kindergarten. She chose to wait.
“Scholastically he’s ready,” she shared last summer, indicating that he was already reading and knew all the basics. “But from a maturity standpoint, he’s just not there.”
Mid year, with her son now five-and-a-half, I connected with her again, specifically addressing her choice and if she had any regrets. She honestly shared that not only did she have no regrets, but now with her oldest in Junior High facing the social challenges that brings, she was more certain than ever that she did the right thing.
“I’m convinced Adam is handling situations he is faced with in Junior High better, because he is older,” she said. “It makes it not easier (just) for him, but for us as well.”
As we concluded our conversation, she reminded me of something I found to be the most important.
“You know your son,” she said. “Whatever you decide, you will know if it is the right choice for him.”
While my head tells me my girlfriend (not to mention many other tenured moms of boys I have polled on this topic) are right — my heart cannot help but wonder if I really know what I am doing.
That night when my son posed the graduation question, my heart broke. He had spent a portion of his morning at preschool sitting in the audience with a handful of other classmates performing the job as ‘audience,’ while the others rehearsed for their big day.
Mama bear of course was ready for combat, as we headed for school the next day. Somehow out of nowhere, wisdom found its way into the car on our journey to school. I asked my son how he felt sitting in the audience.
“I like it,” he said. “I’ve never been in the audience before.
“And anyways, sometimes I lay down and take a little nap.”
I later learned from his teacher that the non-graduating students are given roles to play in the audience. The day we spoke my son and his seven peers had performed as cats and dogs in the audience, applauding their classmates as they rehearsed.
Decision-making, is not always easy. It is especially hard, when as a parent you are trying to navigate and make the best choices to ultimately benefit your children. After all, we are all they’ve got. Our decisions, our choices are ultimately instrumental in who they become.
Sure, there is the argument that we should trust the district, the guidelines and the evaluators. At the end of the day, however, they are not the ones I will hold accountable for my son and his progress or lack thereof. The person I will look to with that responsibility faces me in the mirror each morning and each night as I brush my teeth.
“It is easier for a teacher to occupy a child who is not challenged, than one who is struggling to focus and keep up,” another friend shared during my unofficial mommy poll. She is not only a mommy to a boy and a girl, but a teacher.
Ultimately the end of this story has yet to be written. I know it will never be perfect. Problems will occur, self doubt and blame will always rear their ugly heads.
One thing, however, is for certain: when all is said and done my children will know decisions were never made on their behalf in haste. Serious thought, debate and general consensus were always considered. Perhaps some would describe this as a fault, Type A to the extreme. I simply choose to call it love.

Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at thammond@oakdaleleader.com or by calling 847-3021.

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