In the upcoming month, my daughter will be entering into her first preschool experience. After three and a half years of myself being her only teacher, she has been enrolled in an Early Childhood/Family Education (ECFE) class, my primary reason for putting her in the class simply being that I feel she needs to start getting used to behaving in a school setting. She is excited by the prospect, happily talking about what she hopes to do in school, as many of her friends have also been through these types of classes and have told her about them.
It’s a first step, the next being an actual preschool class (this ECFE experience being one that I will participate in as well), in a series of experiences which we will hope will prepare her for Kindergarten in the fall of 2013. That’s a whole two years from now, and unfortunately it’s a whole year later than the children she interacts with most. Many people have told me that she seems older than her age, they’re surprised that she’s still six months from turning four, and she is mature and capable beyond her 42 months because the children she associates with are mostly older than her. But the reality is that she’s still 6 months shy.
My daughter has a cousin and two close friends that all turn four this month, and even though she is six months behind them in age she is, in many ways, alongside them developmentally. But because of their birthdays, it means that they turn five before the Labor Day cutoff for entry into Kindergarten next fall. She will see her contemporaries, those that she considers her friends and equals, all go off into school, leaving her unable to start for a full year later.
I know she’s still young and these bonds that she’s created with her children will most likely not last forever, the exception being her cousin, especially since they all live in different school districts anyway. But it will be tough when her friends disappear from our usual weekly playgroup, leaving her with the “babies” to play with, and I will most likely have to answer the question of, “Why can’t I go to Kindergarten, too, Daddy?” We’ve celebrated her being a big girl so many times, but we’ll have to tell her that she’s still not big enough to take that same step that her friends are taking.
It’s only a 6 month difference in age between my daughter and her closest friends, but it feels like twice that. And I know that, in the long run, it’s not that big of a deal. She will start Kindergarten when she is ready and of age, just as her friends will. Maybe I’m wrong about her struggling with this, there is the chance that she’ll just take the sudden absence of her friends in stride, or maybe they’ll do afternoon Kindergarten and still come to the weekly playgroup. But still, it’s just another lesson in fairness versus societal structure that I have to buck up and deal with teaching my daughter.