Kindergarten Report Card

June 4, 2012  |  Fatherhood

No sooner had I climbed in the car at LAX, than Z announced that I had missed his last day of kindergarten (why school ends on a Thursday is beyond me).  It’s odd to think that life is now measured summer to summer rather than January 1st to January 1st.  Having a 1st grader in the backseat is also a reminder that while filling up any given Saturday with a bored child can seem a Herculean task, filling up a year in his life is virtually effortless.

Kinder report cards around here embrace the very scientific academic E, S, N system (excellent, satisfactory, needs improvement) and by the end of the year Z was pulling lots of Es and a few Ss and nary an N in the mix.  We put a preemptive call into Harvard to lineup a spot in the 2024 incoming class.

School was really good for Z but as much as he might have learned, it was really a year of Karen and I learning about him.

Being good at something is very important to my little guy.  Z thrives in math and loves it. Sometimes, at the very end of the night, he’ll try to avoid bedtime by suggesting that we do math problems.  He got his math skills from Karen and the fact that he feels good about himself when he does well in math makes him want to do it more – which, of course, makes him even better.  Reading has been more of a challenge. He gets it and he reads a bit, but he knows his best friend, Kirby, is reading chapter books already (the kid is an amazing reader).  It’s not a competition, of course, except that to six year old boys everything is a competition.  This self-imposed pressure makes the learning to read process a minefield for Z.  There’s no such thing as little mistakes, there are only frustrating failures.  Catastrophes of epic proportion.

I find the Greek tragedy that unfolds every time Z can’t sound out a word to be entirely exasperating, Karen finds it a little heartbreaking because she sees so much of her own relationship to learning playing out in her son.  Learning is filled with self-doubt and time spent being ‘not very good’ at something.  Neither Z nor his mother enjoy this feeling at all. I try to remind her that every time he offers a hug to a sad friend or marches across the living room to deliver an unsolicited kiss and “I love you”, he’s showing the world something else that he got from his mother (just like every time he decides to talk nonstop for half an hour and laugh at his own jokes he’s channeling his father).

Of course, the real education at school is what your child learns from the other kids.  Last week, out of the blue, Z informed me that, “When girls watch too much romance on TV, they get into boys business.“. This is not only an awesome piece of little boy wisdom (and, in my experience, totally accurate) it’s the kind of educational tidbit you can only pick up from a worldly mentor like Teddy the 4th Grader.

Z also learned that Google is smarter than his father.  It’s not uncommon for him to ask me to ask the internet a question:  “Dad, can you check on the computer about how far away the moon is?”  or “Dad, can you check on the internet about what time the pool opens?” 

And then there was this exchange:

Z: Mindy has two sisters and they cigarette.
Me: They what?
Z: They cigarette.
Me: You mean they smoke cigarettes?
Z: Yeah. They’re going to get cancer and die.
Me: (thoughtful pause). Yes. Yes they are

Lesson learned.

Honestly, I’m grateful to the School of Other Kids for helping me round out Z’s education about the world.  I like the idea that he’s gleaning all kinds of information from the kids he’s around and then coming home and fact checking with me.  But I’m also terrified that I can’t control the pace and content of the curriculum.  I know there’s nothing original about that worry, but it doesn’t stop me from wondering when he’s going to turn up with a hunk of raw truth that I don’t want him to have just yet and, when he does, what I’m going to say.

Unlike every other activity on the planet, which get invariably easier the longer you do them, this whole Dad thing is getting progressively more complicated.  Teaching bike riding is a breeze when compared with the finesse required to explain the concepts of “romance” and “business” and neither even scratches the surface of what I can see coming right around the corner. Karen is fond of saying, “Little kids, little problems.  Bigger kids. bigger problems.”   I’m fond of ignoring that particular truth lest I dwell on it.

One day not too long ago, as Z trotted off through the gate and into school, Pebbles looked at me from her car seat and asked, “Daddy, when can I go to kindergarten?”   I smiled and tickled her, my way of dodging a question I don’t feel like answering.

When can you go to kindergarten, my beautiful, little girl?  How about never?


  1. If you are interested in how we tripped across a magical means to fixing Sophie’s similar reading struggles, let me know.

  2. “every time he offers a hug to a sad friend or marches across the living room to deliver an unsolicited kiss and “I love you”, he’s showing the world something else that he got from his mother”

    This brought tears to my eyes….Just saying.

  3. I am already starting to see this with mine. Sitting at the dinner table the other night he started clapping his hands and saying “oooooh SNAP!” I said “does someone at school say that?” He said “Christine” then smiled almost wolfish-ly(Christine is one of the older girls). I was thinking just what you are – it broadens their perspective and exposes them to more diversity to learn from their peers, but as you say there is no way to regulate. Just hoping that he trusts me and his father enough to fact check with us like Z does.

  4. My son is the same way with Math…has been since he was Z’s age. He is 11 now and has taken part in Math Olympiad every year that he could. He is also in the gifted program at his school.

    The part where you state that parenthood gets more complicated is too true. The older my sons get, the more difficult it becomes. I am constantly learning from them. With my eldest, we learned that maybe a 2nd language WASN’T a good thing. My eldest, which I was teaching Japanese to, ended up with a speech impediment with the EXACT same issues I had as a child with the ways American pronounced certain letters. With speech therapy, he was able to get past it.

    Both of my boys, even the 6 y/o, want to be perfect in everything that they do. Things have, so far come pretty easy for the both of them. Wait until they run across something that doesn’t come easy. Reading is Z’s…do what I have done….read out aloud with them. Anything they want, and only help when they need it and be patient and have fun.

    Also, wait until they can start with elective classes. My eldest chose Orchestra, and picked the Cello to play. It is the FIRST thing that DID NOT come easily and it was a struggle initially to get him to work at it…but once he decided to DO it, he worked. Now he can actually play it.

Leave a Reply