Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The OJ issue

First it was Orange Juice.

A road trip, two moms, three kids, and a stop at a gas station. The kids were thirsty. I grabbed an OJ. And her daughter puked it all up in the back seat. "Don't you know people shouldn't drink orange juice!" Her mom howled at me. Um... no I didn't. My people drink OJ without much of a hitch, so it never occurred to me that OJ would be the ONE thing in a roadside convenience store that would be bad for children. Apparently Skoll would have been preferable. Despite the fact the her people don't do OJ, we continued on as friends.

Now, here comes the reprimanded for NOT drinking OJ every morning. The previous generation is appalled at the lack of it in my fridge. APPALLED! Usually, they bring their own. Here's my perspective: Good OJ is EXPENSIVE and I'm not all that in to it. Perhaps, if your household consists of 2 self-controlled adults, $7 a week on the stuff is peanuts. But here, where children roll and rumble, $7 OJ is absurd. And the frozen stuff sucks. And we've got a gallon-a-day fresh, raw milk machine in our back yard, so I'm not sure that importing OJ from the far corners of the earth, or rather the middle part, is so crucial.

Do you OJ? You suck either way.

The same holds true for our conundrum child, Coyote. His birthday is July 13th and he's always been young...very very very young for his age. I don't think he was ready to be born until he was 6 months old.

They say to hold boys back a year, if at all possible. They're not ready for school at the crack of five years old. They need a whole other year to play and run. Girls: make 'em miserable just as early as possible, but leave the boys alone. Last year, his Montessori teacher was sure he would not be ready for Kindergarten. Our child-psychologist friend agreed.

Decided: wait a year on Kindergarten. Awkward, expensive, odd to me, a girl so young for her grade she could barely walk when others could run.

Then came teacher conferences a week or so ago. And Coyote's teacher (a former NOW president BTW who opted out and has now taught Montessori for 25 years --- wasting HER LIFE!!!! as the "Feminine Mistake" would have us believe.) Anyhoo... she says she hasn't found anything Coyote CAN'T do and she thinks this should be his Kindergarten year (they're flexible like that). First Grade next year.

Well, I had just gotten used to the idea that we'd hold him back. So this was a shock, like telling a mother her child was 18, then breaking the news that she was just four, and a year later telling her she just earned a drivers license and was accepted at the University of Paris. The wonderful teacher assured me that no matter what I decided, I would spend the rest of my life wondering if I did the right thing and blaming all Coyote's foibles and failures on my inability to navigate the basic task of parenthood. As a parent of four, she told me it is the unavoidable fate of all mothers. And then I suddenly realized: my gosh, first grade! I'll probably have to get a job!! And he's my baby. My bambino. My little Jesus in a manger who just learned how to fart on demand. So soon I'll be marching him off for 6 hours a day of blahblahbladdyblahblah. And she says to me, "It sounds like your the one with the issue here. He's ready. Now you need to be." Don't hold him back!

Conferencing with Blue's teacher, I asked what the difference was with summer birthday boys. She was clear that waiting a year would ensure a confident leader and "rushing" in would result in a follower, always a follower.

Weigh that against Coyote's teacher who noted that he really doesn't care about friendships. He's got one good friend and ignores everyone else. I don't think he cares to lead or follow. He's his own little dude. He's way deep into his own head. He's charming and polite and doesn't give a shit.

Something to think about, no? So,I took my usual course of consulting with everyone for their opinions and ideas, the better to shape my own. Oh. How that backfired. Backfired so shockingly, so forcefully, it might shut me up FOREVER.

Well. Over Thanksgiving, I met with someone else who's opinion was strongly in the Hold Him Back Camp. Start Kindergarten next year. It's ALWAYS best for the child.
And this person then said to me, "It sounds like you're the one with the issue here. He's not ready and you need to stop pushing him." Gosh, but just three years ago this same person noted how terribly I was coddling him by breastfeeding "too long."

Yes. It sounds like I'm the one with the issue here. If you don't come into this world born with a staunch opinionated sword, and a closed minded shield, you are the one with the issue. If you're considering the possibilities and you haven't made up your mind yet, it's an "ISSUE". A made-up mind, tight as a drum with hospital corners, always sounds so intelligent, so knowledgeable, so right. And those of us still considering the options appear stupid and slow. I'll admit to having issues, but slowly deliberating upon important, life altering decisions that don't need to be made for nine more months is not one of them.


  1. I know you don't need another opinion from anyone, but I just thought I'd add that I've never heard of anyone who regretted holding back their child. (easy for me to say, as we have held Ethan back)
    OR Alternately, you could check out who would be his peers and who the parents are and pick the ones you like the best....

  2. Actually, I change my mind about the advise thing. I really do want it. I want to hear testimonials, opinions, etc. What I didn't like was the Freudian interpretation of my motives where instead of me being a mother carefully considering the options, I have one of two deep psychological issues: pushing or coddling. Those two identical but opposing statements perfectly encapsulated the constant and misguided critique we mothers experience.

    So ANYWAY! Thanks for the input R! I actually do appreciate it.

  3. I was older than most of the kids in my class, and it worked out quite well. I am 3 years older than my sister, but we were only 2 years apart in school. She also did running start, so we ended up graduating from different colleges the same year. By the time I earned my masters, she had her doctorate. However, I'm sure that Coyote will turn out to be a great guy either way. These decisions are just not as important as some people make them out to be.

  4. Thanks Scott. I do think it'll be fine either way. I could look back and blame my crazy, glorious mess of a life on my being too young for school, or on my parents, or on anything. But who knows? It's probably my own damn fault.

    AND... I want to clarify that I'm not angry at the two people who said the same opposite comments. In fact I adore them both and was willing to concede (at first) that both faults were probably accurate. But then I thought that maybe nothing was wrong with me, and that's where the blog started. I actually think Coyote's Montessori teacher is the BEST. And it's the best pre-school I've ever seen. It was an off-hand comment she made and I didn't take it as anything other than that until I got the second comment, also from an adored human I happen to know. And combined, the two look rather sinister.

    Oh... the pitfalls of blogging.

  5. Hey Sarajoy~
    I will be the freak here and suggest something totally crazy! What if you let him stay home and learn all the great stuff that school can't teach until he says, "Hey, Mom, I'm ready to go to school. I have learned all about being a pirate, a dragon, a chicken, a cow, a farmer, a house-builder, a tree chopper, etc. I guess I'm ready to go teach those guys about all that I have learned by being at home with you."

    Just a thought.

    By the by, I think you and he and she and he are feakin amazing and we miss you, one and all!
    Amy aka Keely's Mom

  6. Great blog entry, yet again! You had me-- ooh, ooh, hold him back! Then you had me-- ooh, ooh, send him to school asap! Then-- ooh, ooh, who knows...

    I usually err on the careful consideration end of things myself and then, after percolating something for a long while, make a decision in a moment and never look back. Good luck sifting through it all!

    Oh, and this tangentially reminded me of an article from the current issue of the Atlantic. I actually didn't like the 'it's all about the dyad of the mother and child relationship' dynamic of this article, but I was intrigued by the notion of plasticity and potential related to what we consider 'negative or maladaptive' traits in individuals: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200912/dobbs-orchid-gene



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