Have you heard of “redshirting?” I first came across the idea while I was trying to get pregnant with my first baby. Back then, I still thought I had a say in the universe’s grand plan for me – and I was pretty adamant that my kids be born early in the calendar year. As anyone who’s tried to override the universe’s plan knows, it’s not really up to us. More on that later…
To paraphrase the brilliant Malcolm Gladwell in The Outliers, “If your kid isn’t born in January, February or March, don’t even bother signing him up for the pee wee hockey league at age 5 because he will never make it to the NHL.” And while you’re busy NOT signing him up for hockey, you should also defer kindergarten by a year if you want him to succeed. When I did the math and realized my son was due in November, the whole concept of redshirting created an extra layer of panic in my already hormonal, chaotic pregnant brain.
Google it to get the full explanation but here it is in a nutshell: Kids born in the last 3 months before the cut-off date to enter kindergarten (make the adjustment for your area, cut-offs are different around the US, but in Canada, the kids in each grade are generally born during the same calendar year) lack the emotional strength and maturity necessary for success at school. Data also suggests that they’re delayed on language and cognitive development, communication skills and general knowledge. And if you think about it, it sort of makes sense. A kid born in December is almost an entire year younger than a classmate born January of that same year. One year of your life when you’re 4 is 25% of your entire existence. That’s a big chunk. So what do you do?
We thought long and hard about holding our son back a year. Literally snap our fingers and he’s suddenly the oldest kid in the class instead of the youngest. That’s major. My husband’s first thought was that he’d get his driver’s license before any of his classmates and be more popular with the chicks. His aspirations for our future teenaged son’s sex life aside, I was thinking a little more about the current impact on our child. He’s tiny and sweet, some of his peers are a full head taller than him, they’re aggressive and strong and have older brothers who have taught them things that would make my little guy’s head spin. But at the same time, my kids is wise and thoughtful, has no problem making friends and doesn’t know the meaning of separation anxiety. I was torn. For about three years, I stressed myself out over it. Then we decided to just wait and see.
I was reminded that one of my best friends growing up is now a doctor, despite having been born in November. Oh, and my older brother played soccer for an Ivy League school and now has an MBA and an October birthday. But then I thought about my little brother born in December, who would burst into tears and hold on to me for dear life when the bell rang every morning of his first grade year. And my smartest, most emotionally intelligent and well adjusted friend’s January 7th birthday. There really was no one-size-fits-all answer.
But as we got closer to kindergarten registration, I realized without a shadow of a doubt that he was ready. Not just ready, but begging to go. And he’s fine. Great, even. He loves it, he’s thriving, he even has a girlfriend! Hopefully she’ll stick around once she realizes that he didn’t make the hockey team and that he’ll be the last one in his class to get his driver’s license! Once again, the universe decided for me, and I just listened.