Repeat after me, parents-to-be: have your babies in the wintertime. Do not have a summertime baby. Got it? Good. Now, if you’re already pregnant, and you realize that you’re going to give birth to a summertime baby, don’t panic. It’s not too late. Just make sure it’s a girl. Otherwise, you’re in for it.
I didn’t expect any trouble with my four-year-old son Holden’s entering kindergarten when we moved to Dallas, Texas, from Brooklyn last summer. The Texas cutoff for kindergarteners to turn five is September 1, and Holden (born August 21, 2003) made it, albeit barely.
I had never even heard of kindergarten “redshirting,” the college athletics term for benching an athlete for a year so he can “mature.” But as soon as we got to Texas, we noticed that many of the parents we met were obsessed with the “summer birthday boys.” People we did not even know were concerned that Holden, if he entered on time, would be “too immature” and “socially unready” to handle kindergarten. Everyone insisted that we hold him back.
My husband and I were totally confused. Why was everyone in Dallas so concerned that boys be six when they enter kindergarten, when the rules say five? And, why were the summer birthday girls ready for kindergarten, and the boys were not?
In October, I attended Holden’s parent-teacher conference at preschool.
His teacher gave me a photocopied list. “Here is a state-approved list for kindergarten readiness. I’d like you to take a look at it.”
I quickly scanned the list. Recognizes Own Name. Check. Identifies Colors. Check. Recognizes Letters/Sounds of the Alphabet. He’d been reading since his third birthday. Check. Able To Follow Directions (More than two in a row). Check. I read the rest of the list, and Holden had mastered every single task save one, Takes Turns To Talk/Doesn’t Interrupt. We were working on that one.
“I think you should hold Holden back from kindergarten,” she said.
“Are you joking?”
I felt myself getting defensive. I started talking too loud. “He reads! He’s fully reading! He meets every criteria on this list, except one! Why on earth would we hold him back?” My mind was racing. I was thinking there must be some explanation. He was smart, social, pretty well-behaved. He definitely had his moments. But still, I couldn’t think of what would make the teacher want to hold him back from kindergarten.
“Yes, Holden is a very smart boy. But, he acts very young.”
“How Holden acts is perfectly age-appropriate. But, he does act young.”