The following story is from preemie mom Theresa. If you’d like to share your NICU story with us, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am a parent of micropreemie twins born 15 weeks early. I am one of the lucky ones. My twins not only survived the infections, collapsing lungs, sepsis, apnea/bradycardia, heart issues, and more, they are smart, adventurous, creative, and loving four-year-olds about to start kindergarten.
To say I forget that they started life off so fragile would be a lie because it’s something you remember every day. But, I have to say that I am very fortunate because I know that things could be very different. I don’t know how and why we ended up so blessed. But I don’t take it for granted.
That being said, we still struggle with being parents of micropreemies at this age. They started preschool this year. Their November 1st birthday qualified them to begin this past fall. Had they been born in February, as they were supposed to be, we would just be starting preschool this Fall instead of kindergarten. Did they do well academically in preschool? Absolutely. But, my mind still worries about the future. And here is why.
My son, a brilliant boy nicknamed “Super Why” for his inquisitive nature, has the memory of an elephant. He exceeds academically and learns things quickly. However, socially and physically, he is still not comparable to those his grade level. He is the smallest boy in his class and the smallest boy on tee-ball (aside from the 3-year-old). He has anxiety in new situations, severe enough that we have been seeing an art/play therapist. It took him three tee-ball practices before he could get on the field without crying.
He has had complete breakdowns on the ice during skate lessons, in the pool during swim lessons, at school during concerts. He hyperventilates, breaks into hives, and cries hysterically. I then have the dilemma of debating if it’s just his human nature, or does he need an extra year to catch up? Is he not emotionally and socially mature enough, even though he has the intelligence? After all, he is a grade level ahead based on true due date.
My daughter, on the other hand, is extremely outgoing. She thrives in social settings. She loves sports, music, and adventures. Academically, she is average. I am not a mother that is against average, but I know she would excel more academically if she wasn’t so impulsive and had a stronger attention span. I once again fight the dilemma. Is this her human nature or does she need another year to catch up maturity wise?
Academic redshirting is a topic of debate in my family. I’ve spoken to doctors, teachers, therapists, our parents, and others on the subject. Everyone has differing opinions, which makes my decision that much more difficult. On one hand, what if I hold them back and they become bored? Or what if their boredom leads to behavioral issues? On the other hand, some say, “Studies prove redshirting is a positive experience,” or tell me to “follow their due date,” or even “If you don’t hold them back now, you’ll regret it later.”
This decision would be much easier if their delays were significant. I am very fortunate that is not the case. They will likely do well with either decision we make. But I just want to make sure they have the best advantage. They spent the first three years in county programs to help them “catch-up” with physical therapy, occupational therapy, special education, and speech. It was so helpful to have someone watching them regularly and reporting back to me on where they stood. Now, they are four going on 5, and it is up to my husband and I to make to best decision based on our observations and feedback.
Parenting is tough as it is. Having a fall birthday is hard enough in regards to the redshirt dilemma. But adding the micropreemie component with a due date placing them in a different grade level really makes this decision more difficult. I lean towards repeating kindergarten at this point. But we have a year before needing to make that decision. One more year of these constant thoughts!