My five year-old son is about to start a giant milestone: grade school.
Mainly because of his August birthday, he will be entering junior kindergarten. I don’t doubt the decision to put my son in junior kindergarten. My husband and I, alongside our son’s preschool teachers, spent months discussing the decision, weighing the pros and cons.
I still worry though.
Worrying is an inevitable part of the package deal of parenting. It’s what we worry about that makes each of our jobs so unique. For me, I have the added worry of a son who struggles to regulate his emotions, interact socially, and accept change. He has autism.
I’m not worried about him riding a bus (he’s been riding one to his special needs preschool for over a year). I’m not worried about the teachers he will be working with (his school has an excellent staff and a strong transition plan in place). I’m not worried about feeling out of the loop (his IEP includes a daily communication log, per his case coordinator’s suggestion). I’m not even worried about being away from him all day (he’s had some form of childcare since he was six weeks old).
I’m worried about the kind of reputation he’s about to start building for himself.
My son already has a reputation at daycare and preschool. Mostly good, but he can be a handful. Since he’s doing junior kindergarten though, he’s going to be in a class with many new faces. Barring any sudden life changes, my husband and I don’t plan on moving. This is the school system my son will grow up in.
For fourteen years, he will mature into a young man alongside these peers.
I really hope he doesn’t screw it up.
Like it or not, the decisions we make as five year-olds may very well haunt us for years to come. My 24 year-old sister still has the legacy of being the only kindergartner who walked home during recess and brought her two friends with her, putting the school (and our mother) in a panic.
What kinds of decisions will my son make? Will he engage with his peers or ignore them? Will he remember to make eye contact when others speak to him? When he misinterprets a situation, will he lash out with fists? The more mundane questions haunt me as well. Will he be able to open the lid on his snack container? Will he use enough toilet paper to wipe his own bottom? Will he remember to use a Kleenex rather than pick his nose with his finger?
Will he be the little boy sitting alone at the lunch table or the little boy stealing other kids’ lunches?
He’s such a sweet kid with a big heart. He wants friends; he deserves friends. I just worry about his ability to make long-lasting ones. Grade school can be pretty painful. Sometimes, kids are just downright mean. Having at least one real friend can make all the difference. As a minimum, that’s what I want for my son: someone he can confide in and trust and make (mostly) positive memories with.
While grade school is a distant memory for me now as a parent, I realize that it is about to be my son’s present. His school-age legacy is about to begin.
May it involve minimal visits to the principal’s office.
Go to Contemplative Chaos to read more by Mommy Catharsis.