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There are seven kids in my backyard right now. Four boys and three girls, ranging in age from 4 to 10. Most of them just appeared, by biking around the block or by climbing the fence at the edge of the yard.
They’re hard to see but there’s one on the trampoline, two on the monkey bars and four in the treehouse.
And it’s not just today. Almost every afternoon, Braedan brings one or two friends home from Fairfax, racing down the block with backpacks slung over their shoulders. Then another one or two (or sometimes four) neighborhood kids will appear, usually on their bikes, which lay scattered over our driveway. The remaining daylight hours are filled with laughter and screeches as they jump, climb, slide, swing, bike, kick, chase, or scoot from the back to the front and back again.
I love this. I love that few of them are preplanned playdates, with drop-offs and pick-ups. I love that I can glance out my kitchen window and check on them when I can’t tell if the screams are of pleasure or pain (they’re usually of pleasure), but can also just let them go, trusting that they’ll find me if they really need me. It reminds me of my own childhood when all the neighborhood kids played together, no matter our age, endless twilight hours of Ghost in the Graveyard.
This is how it’s supposed to be.
You know how once you start thinking hard about something, it seems to pop up everywhere?
Well, this kindergarten things seems to be popping up everywhere. Yesterday, I read this article from a recent Newsweek, which focuses on parents who hold their kids back from kindergarten (often upon the recommendation of the private schools to which they’re applying) in order to give them an advantage over their classmates, particularly when it comes to standardized test scores. Reading stories like that make me absolutely want to send Austin “early” (on time) because I find it so frustrating that parents constantly push their kids to be the best best best.
Then today I read this (worth your time, I promise), not specifically about kindergarten but just about how we’ve turned childhood into some kind of race, a massive competition between the super-successful and those lagging behind, and about how we should return to a time when kids were allowed to be kids for as long as possible. It made me second guess sending him for a completely new reason, one that only a few people have mentioned thus far. Everyone keeps talking about how holding him back will give him advantages later — in his schooling, in his social life, in his future. And so much of it smacks of having advantages over others — being the best, the brightest, the oldest.
But this little essay made me think about the advantage of just letting him be a kid, right now, less stress, less structure, fewer expectations, for an entire extra year. Like a freebie. Here, little Austin, you’ve had to do lots of grown-up things already (way too many way too grown-up things; you should hear my four-year-old talk about “bwood pwessure cuffs”), so here, take a break. Stay in preschool, build fantastic vehicles out of popsicle sticks, run on the playground, sing songs and do kiddie yoga, don’t fret your pretty little head about phonemic awareness and SmartBoards and Mandarin Chinese.
I’m not so concerned about my kids having advantages over other kids (although admittedly they do — parents who’ve read to them incessantly since birth being chief among them). But I am certainly all about them enjoying the advantages of well-rounded, old-fashioned childhood — freedom and exploration and creativity and self-expression.
Hmmmm, back to the drawing board.
Santa returned with a late present yesterday, this time for me. A new hybrid SUV, now allowing me to transport kids and their friends (and gear) without the guilt!
It’s not likely that I will enjoy my new ride a la Austin, but on the off-chance it happens, you won’t be seeing any pictures here!
And yes, to you moms who’ve gently reminded me that Austin will be none too pleased with the posting of those recent photos, I can go back and edit everything I put here and will do periodic purging of all embarrassing images and text from this site (long before the kids reach middle school, I promise!).
While I’m on the subject of cute things Braedan has said, I might as well share the very funniest thing to ever come out of his mouth. This was right after Austin was born, around the time Braedan referred to “Mommy’s milk containers” (I’ll let you ponder for a moment which body parts he was talking about with that one). I was in the bathroom getting undressed to take a shower when he walked in, pointed at my still swollen belly and shouted, as if he had just made some terrible discovery, “Mom! They left a little bit of Austin in you!”
Ha! A little bit of Austin, indeed. I had given birth a mere ten days earlier!
Ask most moms though and they’ll tell you, even years later, . . . maybe the doctors did leave a little something in there. (See beautiful belly roll here.)