Ok, well, not yet. He will be going in a week, but that's right around the corner. I have been a little stressed out lately, because I'm worried about kindergarten. Ethan did not go to preschool this past year and for the last few months, I slacked off on working with him. I expressed my concern that Ethan's writing was a little shoddy and my mother nearly lost it.
"He is five years old, Kristen. It is kindergarten."
My mother really won't discuss this with me. I made a crack about Ethan's knowledge of physics being below a first grade level, and she nearly hung up on me. Her memories of children going to kindergarten involve kids learning to adjust from being away from home and the institutionalization of snack time at 10 a.m. She doesn't know that red shirting your kindergartener is all the rage.
Before you start looking at me with the wonky "she's one of THOSE parents," let me say that I truly could not care less if Ethan is the best and brightest in his class or if he has any chance at the Kindergarten Top Gun trophy. I am simply worried that he will show up at school and everyone else will already know everything, and he will be mad or frustrated that he is behind. Sick, I know, but it's better than wanting to hold him back a year so he can possibly be the biggest quarterback at high school twelve years from now. Those people are really crazy. I'm just a little crazy.
In the old days (pre-1970s), a child would go to kindergarten if he or she turned 5 years old at some point during the school year. In the 70s, school began implementing birthday cut off dates such as December 1 for admittance to kindergarten. Red shirting your kindergartener, or holding them back a year if they have a birthday on or around the cut off date for admittance to kindergarten, is very popular these days with upper middle class families looking to give their child an edge in school. It's a less common practice for people with less money because kindergarten is free and daycare is not.
Red shirting your kindergartener once meant holding your soon-to-be five year old back a year and starting him in kindergarten as an older five year old. But with school cut offs now rolled back to September or even August in so many places, parents are looking at their "young" five year olds with summer birthdays and wondering if they are ready for the stresses of all day kindergarten.
It is understood, of course, that nearly all of these children have gone to daycare or preschool. What about my friend Jess who couldn't send her son to preschool because it started at the same time her older son got on the bus for school everyday? No preschool, and he missed the August 1 birthday cut off day by two weeks. The school said she could test him in, but he had issues with upper case versus lower case letters on the test. Are you kidding me? She found a private kindergarten that starts AFTER her other son gets on the bus, and the school said she can retest him at the semester break.
Now there is as much as an 18 month age spread in kindergarten. Some kindergartens are still half-day while others are full day. Some have cut off dates of August 1, while others have cut off dates of December 1. Hasn't it gotten a little out of control? Even I should be smacked for worrying about the big ticket items like "will he remember his seasons."
I mean, it's just kindergarten.
It's that time of year. Why don't you join us in a little sidewalk love as our kids start the school year out? Invite your kids to be agents of happiness and hope on the sidewalks nearest you, then upload your pictures to the PBS Parents Supersisters Flickr Pool or tweet us a picture at @pbssupersisters. You can also leave links to your pictures and stories in the comments below.
K: Are you frightened?
Ethan: Mom. I'm tall enough now. I'm not frightened.
K: I hate to be a downer, but you do know that the height requirement for rides has nothing to do with your level of fear, right?
Ethan: Mom. I'm TALL ENOUGH.
K: I'm just saying that if you don't want to do it, it would be totally fine.
Ethan: Mom, Harrison says that roller coasters are SO fun and that I would LOVE them.
K: Well, Harrison is an aficionado of rides so I guess that makes sense.
Ethan: Can I go on that boat?
K: Only if your father will go with you. That's the throw up boat.
Derek: Sorry, buddy. It's not happening.
Ethan: But it's a pirate boat.
K: Look at all those good parents on that throw up boat with their kids.
Ethan: Then we can go?
K: Absolutely not.
Derek: Absolutely not.
He pointed to the log flume. I sighed. Along with not wanting my food to touch on my plate unless it is a designated touching food such as a casserole, I have this thing about getting wet on rides. Okay, I have this thing about getting my hair wet any place outside of a shower or pool. It's not logical but it is what it is. If you saw my hair, you would really, really understand how illogical it is. My husband piped in with a "Mom would LOVE to go with you boys."
"Love" is a very strong word and frankly, I think we throw it around too much. But I guess it would be love to go on the log flume with your children. I looked quizzically at Nate. He nodded. Et tu, Brute? He looked me right in the eyes, nodded his head again and said, "I not sca'd, Mom."
I used to be the queen of the roller coaster. Ain't no mountain high enough. I remember going to a nearly deserted park with friends and running from the exit of the coaster to the entrance of the coaster so that we could have a nearly continuous ride. I was able to maintain a level of nausea near vomiting for 8 ride cycles before I called it quits. It was one of my all-time best days ever.
But now I'm old. My body doesn't appreciate such abuse and the nausea reminds me of morning sickness. I spent an inordinate amount of time in a torts class in law school determining liability when the giant swing lost a chair into the crowd. It's as if becoming a parent has driven me to check for that state safety sticker on every single carnival ride before I hand over my precious babies and those really, really expensive tickets.
We got off the log flume and it was as if my baby Ethan was gone forever. He was only limited by the number of tickets in his pocket. Roller coasters, swings, you name it. He was fearless. The crazier the ride, the more empowered he became. My head told me that I just didn't want him to do more than he could handle and end up being scared. My heart told me that I just wasn't ready for my boy to grow up.
Ethan: I CAN do it, Mom.
He was right. He really can. And he did.
Victory photo by Derek. FYI, there is also a complete montage of me mouthing "You" "Are" "Dead" "To" "Me" "Now" to him as we went up the steep hill before the log flume soaking. This didn't seem an appropriate place or time to share those pictures.
Derek walked in the other night as we were all making homemade pasta. Flour was everywhere and Nate kept reaching in to give the homemade dough a little love pat. I physically cringed every time he did it. Even if I dipped these children in a vat of anti-bacterial soap, I will still remain suspect of their cleanliness.
D: Did you boys wash your hands?
Ethan and Nathan: YES!!
K: They did.
D: (to me) Are you okay?
K: I'm fine. It's just they are so gross.
Derek laughed and handed the boys their very own pasta mound. It was a brilliant move. The boys put the pasta into the machine and patted it repeatedly. It fell on the ground. He picked it back up and handed it to them. They squealed with delight as they continued to make their own dinner. I finished making our real pasta and made the dirty pile disappear before the noodles went into the boiling water.
The kids greedily ate their dinner. It was a hit. That's when I realized that having the kids cook with me was a sure way to get them to eat their dinner. It seemed that because they were invested, the food seemed to taste better to them.
Use simple ingredients. Tomatoes, garlic, onions, basil and oregano will make a lovely sauce for pasta. My kids love picking tomatoes from our garden. Some are redder than others, but you can always wait a few days for those not-so-green tomatoes to ripen. Nature is kind.
Use a recipe that is forgiving. Pasta is easy to make. Flour, olive oil and an egg. There are a million and one recipes for making pasta on the internet if you are looking for one. Mix it together and roll it out with either a rolling pin or a pasta maker. Kids love rolling pins. I would highly recommend spacing your children out with approximately 6 inches to spare, but that's just the crazy that is our house. Exact measurements for pasta are not required. Another fun thing to make is sorbet. Fruit and simple syrup and you are on your way to a delicious dessert.
Shop together. At this time of the summer, the food at the farmer's market is fabulous. Everything is fresh off the farm. Lots of farms have u-pick programs that encourage people to pick their fruit and vegetables directly from the source. This promotes local farms and sustainability as well. My kids love to go picking. Learning about how the strawberry goes from the plant all the way to the table is part of the fun.
Make dinner colorful. My whole life my mother never made two vegetables that were the same color. And let me tell you, she always made two vegetables. She reminded us on more than one occasion that her home economics teacher taught them that dinner should be inviting and colorful. My kids seem more drawn to the orange food groups (carrots, peppers) but greens are not far behind. It provides a great opportunity to practice colors, although Nate still thinks everything is green but needs us to know that his favorite color is orange.
Don't worry about the mess. As the flour piles up on the floor, take a deep breath and let it go. You can clean that flour up when you are done. Better yet, your kids can clean it up. Stressing out about the mess is only going to ruin your good time. If you are Cathy Cleanup, set a goal for the amount of time you allow the mess to accumulate. That way you can focus on your kids and on teaching them how to cook and less time worrying about the little things.
Cooking with kids is as easy or as complicated as you want it to be. Here are more tips for cooking with kids. I'll admit my goal is to have my children cooking all the meals in my house by the time the last one is ten, but I don't see anything wrong with that. Do you?
I thought I heard my name as I crossed the lobby. I glanced over my shoulder for a brief second but never stopped. It isn't the first time this week that I have heard a "Kristen!" directed to someone other than me and it is not like it is an uncommon name.
I raced to the door and began to text Derek. My phone rang instead. Evidently they had been chasing me through the lobby but to no avail. I turned around and Ethan and Nathan came racing up to me. They tackled my legs and I thought for a brief second that I would go over. I leaned up to kiss The Baby in his father's arms. He gave me a big grin but didn't move from his spot of comfort.
So it's going to be like that, huh? Mama leaves for 4 days and somebody got a little bitter. I can understand that. I waved to him and Derek tried to convince him to come to me. I could see that Derek was panicked that I would do something crazy and break out into a good quality howcanyounotloveyourmother rant complete with tear-stained cheeks in the highly public train station.
I grabbed Nate's hand and told Ethan that I had missed him so much.
E: Really? Then why didn't you call?
K: I did call.
E: I don't remember.
K: I did. Remember that I called that one day but The Baby tried to eat Dad's phone and then Nate kept hanging up on me?
K: So I should have called more? Why didn't you call me?
E: I don't know.
K: It's not like you don't know how.
E: Good point. Well, I missed you too. And Lindsey let me play Wii WHENEVER I WANTED.
N: And she bringed us crayons.
K: Did you tell her we don't have any because The Baby climbs up on the table and eats them?
E: MOM. Lindsay WATCHES The Baby so he doesn't EAT the crayons.
Who knew that was the trick? Huh. A greater mother would have felt horrible and questioned her parenting skills against those of the hyper-chipper, highly-engaged, college-aged babysitter. I just stood there feeling really bad that the babysitter probably spent a ridiculous amount of time digging crayons out of The Baby's mouth. Or she just waited until The Baby took a nap. Hey, there's a winning idea!
The trouble is that I really didn't call very much. The Baby screeches like a pterodactyl from start to finish on the call , while intermittently chewing on the phone. Nate rips the phone out of his brother's hands, yells something relatively unintelligible and then hangs up. Ethan calls me back and tattles about the latest bad behavior (because that is so few and far between). By the time Derek gets the phone back, everyone is frazzled. It's actually kind of funny if you don't need to convey any pertinent information or really want to know how anyone is doing.
So Derek sends pictures of the day's events and I call the babysitter to see if they haven't given her slip yet. Other than that, it was pretty quiet while I was away. I got home and everything was relatively intact. I would complain about them setting the carpet on fire with a lamp but I'm really just glad they waited to nearly burn the house down until after I got home.
The Baby finally climbed up onto my lap and forgave me. No harm, no foul. I think I would do it the same way next time I go away. What do you think?
The look on Ethan's face was priceless. When faced with the prospect of going to all-day kindergarten in a month, he zoned right in on his daily lunch dilemma. I'm more concerned that he still wants to write his name in all caps, which naturally leads us to his outside voice being his inside voice as well. Neither makes a teacher very happy.
I had a flashback to the time the preschool teacher asked Derek to stay after pickup so she could talk to him. I had just had Mason.
"Ethan insisted that we heat up his food today. I told him that we had no microwave to heat up the food and he insisted that he had seen one in the teacher's lounge. We did it today but we won't be able to do it again."
My child insisted they heat up his food. I had sent him with very, very hot macaroni in the morning and I was guessing it would be warm enough when lunch time rolled around. I'm pretty sure it was warm enough.
K: What did you say to her?
D: I said okay.
K: Did you say, "oh, my gosh. I'm horrified my son asked you to heat up his meal in the teacher's lounge?"
D: Why would I do that?
K: Why didn't they just tell him no? Why can't anyone tell that child no? TELL HIM NO.
D: Pretty good that he called them out on the teacher's lounge micro though.
K: I don't even want to know how he knew there was one in there. He's 4.
I had blocked all this out until the conversation the other day. Luckily it appeared that he had already forgotten the teacher's lounge possibility but was still left without a solution.
We ran through a list of possible foods he could eat that required no heating. Cereal. That leaves us with a whole different set of problems.
I went online to find one of those insulated food containers. I let him pick it out along with the lunch box. The matching set had dinosaurs pictures and names. I had a brief moment where I second-guessed whether or not I should be buying one of those character lunch boxes so he wouldn't get beat up at recess but clearer heads prevailed.
Not two days later the lunch box arrived. One lunch box. I had only ordered one because I only have one child going to kindergarten in a few weeks. Nathan promptly opened up the lunch box, put his sandwich in it and proudly proclaimed how much he loved "our" lunch box. He completely lost it (which is a whole other post) and I gently explained why Ethan needed the lunch box. I reminded him about Ethan going to kindergarten. I finally talked him off his little ledge and dove into my "how steel conducts heat" lecture with Ethan that would have made the scientist in my husband proud.
I just hope it works.