Repeating First Grade

I usually look forward to the whole back-to-school routine, but this year it has a different ring to it. My son is repeating first grade, and I think it’s my fault.

In the big picture, it’s probably not as big as it feels right now.

FirstGrade

But there is no worse feeling than knowing that your child needs to take a step back because of your decisions. Even though you thought you were doing the right thing at the time.

In hindsight, it’s clear. He was just a few days within the cutoff to start kindergarten. He was still 4 when he went, turning 5 about a month after school started. (The cutoff has since changed.)

His pre-K teacher said he was ready (though we knew the responsibility of the decision was ours). He was soaring academically, and I got caught up in the pride of that. Wow, we must be great parents! I thought…

I just assumed his maturity would catch up to the academics. And to be honest, I was also really looking forward to not paying another full year of daycare.

So he went to Kindergarten.

KindergartenPic1

I remember in the break room one day, I had a conversation with a coworker whose child was the same age. She seemed uneasy that we were starting kindergarten, and she seemed to wonder about her decision to wait another year. But she just didn’t think her son was ready yet.

I even said “please don’t worry, you’re doing what’s right for your son, and that’s never a bad thing.”

And now my own words come screaming back to me….

“You’re doing what’s right for your son, and that’s never a bad thing.” Painful as it is.

He did okay in Kindergarten. He was the little guy, literally. The youngest of all 3 classes. I had a few meetings with his teacher during the year to help come up with ways to get him to focus a little more. He was also pretty active in class, physically.

Typical of his age, I thought. He’s new to school and it’ll be fine.

There weren’t any real problems until he started first grade.

It was a lot of the same. Rolling around on the carpet at reading time, blurting out Super Mario stories during class time. Getting in and out of his seat. Twirling in the hallway. Talking during class. Incomplete work sent home.

He was seen as “the baby” of the class by then, and his older classmates took to helping him out with packing up his backpack and helping him get his supplies out.

I’m so relieved that he wasn’t bullied and that they took care of him instead. But in the end, he came to rely on that help. He still just wanted to play all day at school.

He made great strides in the last 3 months of school last year. But it’s decision time.

If we continue him on, he’ll be playing catch up for most of the year. Physically, socially, and the other kids will soon be less tolerant of helping him. I also think he gets discouraged academically in a class with older kids. And he doesn’t have any ultra-close friendships that would suffer much.

So we have elected to hold him in first grade. We thought about it over and over again, and it was agonizing and hard and we dismissed the option immediately when we first knew of the possibility…. But we know in the end it’s the best thing for him.

We went out and did the back-to-school shopping, and he was excited to pick out a new backpack and lunchbox. And we’ve had a nice fun summer. He didn’t seem too worried about it.

At the breakfast table recently, I asked him if he was excited about the first day, and his eyes welled up with tears and he began to cry. He said he was scared to go back to first grade again. And I wanted to sink down into the floorAgain I say, there is no worse feeling than knowing your child has to take a step back because of a decision you made.

So we’ve had a long talk about being brave when you are scared. And how even though his job at school is very important, some of the best things in life aren’t measured there. Things like kindness, a pure heart, giving and being a good friend. And how Jesus is with us the whole time, no matter what.

Friends, take it from me.

Kids don’t have to do more and more the younger they are. You could have a total brainiac on your hands, but maturity is a really important part of that. Maturity impeded academics in our case. Do what’s right for them, not your parenting ego. You might be sitting across from your child at the breakfast table one day wishing you could get that extra year of childcare back.

(And pssst if you are also in our shoes…. Ellen DeGeneres repeated Kindergarten. She hasn’t done so bad. Bill Gates hated school in the beginning. And every comedian known to man probably had ADD. Kids need to know what’s expected of them, but I think we’ll be alright.)

My son is still as sweet as the day is long, and I am unbelievably proud of him. He is a very helpful and loving big brother, and he makes me laugh a thousand times a day.

And on the first day of school, we’ll post our back to school pictures and hold our heads up high.

Here’s to another big year of learning. For BOTH of us!

MomandSon

**For an update on how our first day of school went (and helpful comments from others that went through it), see Repeating First Grade-Part 2

**For an update on the last day of school, see Repeating First Grade-Success!

For an update 3 years later: Repeating First Grade, an update

  1. When I worked in an after school program one of the young first graders excitedly told me (when I asked of he was excited for summer) “yeah! And next year I get to be in first grade again!” His teacher had played it up as a great thing. He thrived the next year and every year after that. It’s a tough decision. But I know you want what’s best. Congratulations on making the tough call.

    • Thank you Greta 🙂 I know it will be a blessing for us in the end, and it’s a lot better than worrying about him all year trying to keep up in 2nd grade for sure!

  2. Once again, your bravery and courage and humility inspire me. I applaud your decision….no doubt one of the hardest ever. But also one of the kindest and most selfless for him in the big picture. Praying for that first day!

    • Thank you for the prayers Debbie, sincerely. I know it will end up just being a blip on the scope later, but prayers are really handy at the moment. I’m so blessed to know you!

  3. Last year I was a first grade teacher. A mom and I talked about her son and she decided for him to repeat first grade. He was struggling academically and, we felt, needed a little more time to mature and be successful. It was totally her decision. I changed schools this year and lost touch with them. I saw her one day at her job and we talked. She told me that she had been worried about his repeating first grade – but it was the best thing she could have done. He is doing really well and has been very successful. She was pleased with her decision. Each child is different. But this worked for her son.

    You could also tell your son that he can help the other kids know what to do in first grade, since he knows and is an expert!

  4. praying for you all in this situation – and for a braveheart for your son (from timothy 1:6 God didnt give us fear but love power sound mind = braveheart) we used to pray with our son for a braveheart when he started school because he simply didnt like it! hugs for the journey, blessings, claire

    • Thank you Claire, we had a meet and greet tonight with the teachers at the school, and they went out of their way to make him comfortable. He did great! The prayers are much appreciated also, thank you so much 🙂

  5. Thank you for your willingness to share your story and your heart. And good for you for being brave enough to do what you needed to do and being willing and able to admit that a decision you made may not have been the best. Sometimes, our pride can create in us a need to prove that the decision was a good one; but you’re choosing humility and that is a beautiful example, my friend.

    Parenting is tricky, isn’t it? So many times, I get to the end of the day and wonder, was that more good than bad or more bad than good. And I seek God’s grace as a balm and commit to getting up and doing it again the next day, trusting God to help me along the way.

    Thanks for keeping it real, sister <3

    • Thanks Judy, God’s grace helps me so much every single day! Every single day. And I so agree with what you said about wondering if there was more good than bad at the end of the day. Mom life is a tough gig, thank you for your continued support! This job will bring a big payoff for both you and I in the end, though the days can be hard now. God bless!