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Mendo Lake Family Life

Ready for Kindergarten?

Jan 07, 2008 12:00AM

We are just a month shy of my son Reilly turning the big 5, and kindergarten looms large on the horizon. His preschool teachers tell me he’s ready, and I believe them, yet at the same time I know that kindergarten is going to be a huge step for him, full of major transitions.

Just to put my own mind at ease, I read up on the signs of kindergarten readiness and made a little checklist:

  • Cuts with scissors: Yes.
  • Traces basic shapes: Yes.
  • Sorts similar objects by color, size, and shape: Yes.
  • Recognizes groups of one, two, three, four, and five objects: Yep.
  • Recognizes alphabet letters: Practically since he exited the womb.
  • Counts to ten: Check.
  • Bounces a ball: Check.
  • Recognizes authority and follows rules: Check.
  • Recognizes some common sight words like “stop”: Especially if it is written on a red octagon at an intersection.
  • Recognizes rhyming sounds: I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard that “Mum” rhymes with “bum” and “Venus” rhymes with “penis”.
  • Identifies the beginning sound of some words: Did you know that “cute” starts with cue-cue-Q? And “white” starts with why-why-Y?
  • Shows an understanding of general times of day: Particularly if they are associated with food or fun.
  • Talks in complete sentences of five to six words: Often, it seems that Reilly speaks in one long, continuous, run-on sentence of 500 or so words, especially when I’m waiting for him to take a breath so that I can ask him to get dressed or set the table etc.
  • Shares with others: So long as it isn’t a favorite brand-new toy.
  • Separates from parents without being upset: Uh….
  • Looks at pictures and then makes up stories: Particularly if the picture is of construction equipment or a dead fish rotting on the sea floor.
  • Listens to stories without interrupting: Yes. Well, as long as the story isn’t about a backhoe. Or a crane. Or a shark. Or a dead fish rotting on the sea floor. Or a volcano, for that matter. Or, when I come to think of it, the formation of the solar system and the Earth. Or, since we’re on the subject, tornadoes. Or…
  • Pays attention for short periods of time to adult-directed tasks: Unless it is something he doesn’t feel like doing, in which instance he will gaze off into space or continue whatever he is doing with intense concentration as if he hasn’t heard you.
  • Understands actions have both causes and effects: ACTION; Steal Baby Raccoon from Gigi’s bunny house. CAUSE; To discover what sister will do. EFFECT; Mother of God, that girl can scream.
  • Manages own toileting needs: Very good at this, I’m happy to say, after a long hard struggle to get him to overcome his phobia of the solo bathroom visit. The only thing he can’t do on his own is unblock the toilet after he’s used the entire toilet roll to wipe.
  • Dresses self and is able to deal with buttons and zippers: The only problem we have getting dressed is the sock part. We have to put the socks on at least three times, in different ways, or different pairs, with many frustrated leg flailings and agonized cries about how bunchy they are, before we can get the shoes on. Here’s how it goes: Flail legs, roar with anger. Take the shoes off and smooth out tiny wrinkle in one sock. Flail and wail. Shoes off and “unbunch” perfectly smooth looking socks for a third time. It’s like “The Princess and the Pea” meets “Groundhog Day.” Except with socks.
  • Can exercise self-control: As long as we are not putting on socks (see above).

It’s not just Reilly going on to the next phase of childhood; Genevieve, my baby, is starting preschool soon too. How do I know she is ready for this next step?

Well, besides showing many of the recognized signs of preschool readiness, such as being able to separate from me, recognizing shapes and colors, and having an awareness of letters and numbers (Did you know that MC9X55T spells “cat”?), perhaps the most telling sign is how I have to extract her, struggling and protesting “But I want to stay!” from Reilly’s classroom whenever I drop him off.

What about me? Am I ready to have one child start kindergarten and the other start preschool? Are there signs of “child-free time” readiness? If so, they might include:

  • The house hasn’t been properly cleaned for almost five years.
  • Emptying the dishwasher feels like a luxurious break from playing the zillionth game of “construction site”.
  • Tired of hearing “Mom, I’m bored, what can I do?”
  • Tired of thinking “Oh my God it’s raining!!! What are we going to DO?”
  • Tired of doing the shopping with two shopping carts—one for the food, and one to contain the children.
  • Tired.

Joking aside, I feel I’m ready to hand over some of my children’s learning to folks formally trained in how to facilitate it, and I’m ready to pass the baton of preferred playmate to the little boys and girls who will hopefully seize it.

Vanessa Dodge lives in Petaluma with her husband and two children. Her work has appeared in various publications, including Glamour and Mom Writers Literary Magazine.