We have a new afternoon routine, Cruz and I. While London finishes her nap, we find ourselves at the kitchen table. I’m playing music in the background, a candle is burning, and he’s eating a snack. “May I have a piece of paper?” he asks in between bites, cracker crumbs spreading around the table, “another one?”
Our table is covered in papers. He draws maps, startlingly accurate maps of where we live or how we get to school. If it’s not maps, it’s road signs, and lately charts of the planets. He draws quickly and with concentration. Today we worked on his homework together and out of nowhere, he pulled a new piece of paper out of his pile. “This is a worksheet for you, mommy!” I smooth the paper down in front of me. NAME, it says in all caps at the top. MRS MOMMY. He’s drawn letters for me to trace and balloons to color in, just like his homework from earlier in the week. As I start my homework, Cruz bends his head back over his own paper, and I can see the slight blush on his cheeks, his little hidden smile.
So far, we are loving kindergarten. It’s helping my son soar.
The day before Cruz started school, I saw an article posted on Facebook about when boys should start kindergarten. “Boys should never start kindergarten before age 6,” the bold my own addition. “They’re too wild. They need to run. They need to jump. No one could expect them to sit still! They’re being stifled!”
I started to panic. It’s too early for him to go to school! He needs to run and go wild! Even as I was packing his backpack for the first day of school, I pictured him squirming in his seat, his spirit getting squashed by the soul-crushing expectations of raising his hand when he had something to say. Cruz turning on me because I had committed the ultimate mother-of-boys sin by sending him to kindergarten before he turned six.
It gets worse. He wasn’t even five.
My four year old started kindergarten. He’s the smallest one in the class. His backpack is a turtle shell on him, practically bouncing down to his knees as he walks down the ramp. I’ve worried about him being little. I’ve worried about him making friends. I’ve worried that we’ve not given him long enough to be a child and that we’ve rushed him into school. We walk down to the playground together every morning, and he leans on me while we wait for the bell to ring. It’s in that moment that I doubt; my hands rest on his head, I pray over him quietly, and he looks so small.
But then the bell rings and he runs toward his class. It’s already a warm day and I stand outside the classroom with the other kindergarten moms and watch as he puts away his homework and snack and lines up for chapel. That’s when I remember that he loves this, the schedule, the routine, the learning.
There is so much in motherhood that is about risk-management. Car seats, vaccine schedule, swaddlers, BPA-free sippy cups for the babies, and now that they’re older, it’s more about their souls. Which shows to watch, which books and shows make them sassy (goodbye forever, Captain Hook!), time-out strategies. As my husband started to ask, “what if we did kindergarten…?” I chalked up a bunch of reasons why kindergarten was the wrong choice for us. I needed to manage the risk. And every single reason was based on fear, based on what everyone else was doing.
It was a joy to start peeling back the layers of fear and notice that we were – so gently- pushing our son out of the nest, letting him stretch his wings. I found freedom in remembering that we are parenting our own child, our own boy, not every boy in the world. I love that boys can thrive on running wild, and I love that my own, special boy thrives in the classroom. As the weeks went by, I started to ask myself in disbelief, “what if we hadn’t taken this risk?” There’s so much of him that we would have missed! I would have missed him growing in obedience. I would have missed him realizing that he can be a leader. I would have missed him figuring out that he can read his own Bible. I would have missed being MRS MOMMY. I would have missed these moments at the kitchen table where he bends his head over his work, so proud. I am seeing him soar over kindergarten. And it feels like freedom for both of us.