When I was pregnant, my family joked that my love of all things literary, working here at PSG and the fact that my husband is a chemistry teacher for Boston Public Schools, our son was destined to be a genius.

As Gabriel approaches his first birthday in July, it is clear that we were right. He loves books and has been turning pages on his own for months now. He is also constantly performing scientific experiments with gravity. In planning Gabriel’s first birthday party, I’ve been thinking about what it means to have a summer baby: barbeque birthday parties, beautiful birthday weather, and never having to make dozens of cupcakes to bring into the classroom.

I recently realized it also means that Gabriel could be one of the youngest students in his class; he could turn five the summer before starting kindergarten and—in 2029—graduate high school at 17 years of age. I say “could” and not “will” because of an interesting report I saw on 60 Minutes and read about in the Huffington Post about parents holding their summer babies back so they start kindergarten as one of the older students in the class instead of the younger ones.
This practice is called redshirting, also a sports term for delaying an athlete’s participation in a sport to lengthen how long he or she can play. The theory behind some parents’ decision to hold their child back from starting kindergarten is that a child on the older end of the age range in his or her class will have physical, intellectual, social and emotional advantages. In the Huffington Post article, an admissions officer notes that redshirting is worth considering if parents feel it may result in the child “starting for a sports team as opposed to sitting on the bench; being one of the first to drive as opposed to one of the last (huge social advantage); [or] the possibility [he or she] will be an A and B student as opposed to a B and C student.” Some parents might also keep their child back if they feel he or she is not mature enough to handle kindergarten.

There may also be negative effects to redshirting. In the 60 Minutes report, Samuel Meisels, president of Chicago’s Erikson Institute, noted that the advantages of holding a child back decrease as he or she gets older. Children develop at different rates, so younger children who are not as mature as their fellow students in kindergarten could catch up as they get older. He also points out that there is a risk of more disruptive behavior from older students who are bored in classes that seem too easy.

Although it’s still four years away, I can’t help but wonder what my husband and I will do when Gabriel turns five. In deciding if he is ready for kindergarten, we will likely approach it as we have many parenting decisions so far: by researching online; reading parenting books; talking with other parents, his daycare provider and his preschool teacher; and ultimately choosing what we think is best for our son. In the meantime, we’ll focus on the important things at the moment: what kind of frosting we’ll choose for our son’s birthday cupcakes and what we should do with his party guests if it rains during his birthday barbeque.