For the last several months, I have been locked in a mental struggle with myself over whether or not to send my youngest child with an early September birthday to kindergarten in the fall. You moms out there know that I had to start thinking about it months ago, because in order to sign your child up for school in the fall, you must pay money and fill out paperwork in the previous winter!
I knew (as moms do) that my Livie could do kindergarten at age five. What I didn't know is if she could handle being one of the youngest kids in class for the rest of her educational career. I didn't know if she could handle peer pressure as the youngest, handle being one of the last to become an adolescent, get her driver's lisence and on and on. If I waited, how would it be for her to be the tallest (she's a giraffe), oldest, earliest.
I felt either way I went, I was making a fear-based decision. Never a good idea.
So in my mind, I made my official position "undecided," enrolled her in both private pre-K (pricey) and public K (free) and asked God to reveal what we should do in his time.
This week, I believe he answered it. Jeff and I both came to certainty at the same time. We realized that Livie's future character and ability was unknowable: we couldn't predict what kind of a ten year old or sixteen year old she would be. But suddenly, and with clarity, I decided to ask the question, "What kind of mom am I?" Immediately I knew the answer to that, and also to the question "what kind of dad is my husband." We know who we are and what we believe as a family.
We believe that experiencing challenges builds character. Therefore, not necessarily being the brightest kid in the class for whom everything can be a good thing. With our eldest daughter, we've seen that, in fact, being an "accelerated learner" at the top of your class comes with challenges of its own; because most things are so easy for her, when she encounters resistance, it challenges her very sense of identity. I personally struggled with that kind of perfectionism all through school. Perhaps Livie will be freer from that.
We believe that our child's education is our responsibility. If she needs help in school, we'll get her help. I'm a stay-at-home mom. I have time to help with homework and give her the attention she needs.
We believe in believing the best in our girls: in giving them the opportunity to rise to challenges. We have always done things with them before other kids are "ready": from taking them tent camping to riding roller coasters to eating out in fancy restaurants. And they have learned to not just cope but thrive in many things as a result.
We believe that their security rests not in their ability to be the smartest, tallest, prettiest, most talented people in their class, but rather in their identity as loved children of God, who helped, guided and sustained by Him. And we also believe that because our family, with two committed parents that love each other and love them, our children will be more equipped to cope in the world than those that don't have that advantage.
This feels to me like a faith-based versus fear-based decision. And I'm not saying its the right one for anyone else but our family. But it feels good.
So...with some trembling, I am un-enrolling in pre-K and praying for my little Livie. Meanwhile, Livie is dancing around the house periodically and chanting "Kin-der-gar-ten" and pumping her little tanned fist in the air. I can't wait to see what God is going to do with her.