The ultimate cliche couldn't be more true: your kids really grow up before you know it. This morning I dropped off Little Brother in kindergarten. For. The. Last. Time. Bye bye circle of small chairs, theme corners, picknicks on the classroom floor and reading books with a bunch of kids crawling all over you at the beginning of every school day (I wasn't too fond of the last part, I have to admit...). Our days in kindergarten are officially over and as parents, we are definitely ready for the next step.
Whether Little Brother feels the same way? On one hand, he can't wait to be more like Big Brother - "I'll have my own desk in first grade, with a drawer!" - on the other hand, he liked what he had a lot and, deep down, prefers to play it safe. In his perception, first grade is huge.

We can't blame our little one. Big Brother's year in first grade wasn't smooth at all and Little Brother's antenna immediately picked up the tension. He has seen firsthand that there aren't any shortcuts anymore, that you have to sit behind a desk most of the day, that playtime as he knows it will be over and that, if you are lucky enough to be ahead of your class, homework will be in the picture as well.
"I'm not going to do a thing next year. I sooo don't want to skip a class! I want to be with my friends forever and ever. But wait a minute, if I do nothing, I will have to repeat the grade. I know what I'll be doing: something in the middle, enough to stay with my group but certainly not too much." I smiled at Little Brother's one-of-a-kind-theory and told him that he won't get away with anything but doing his best.

Little Brother is lucky though: one of his kindergarten teachers will be his first grade teacher next year. We are lucky as well, since Little Brother comes with quite the 'manual' and not having to 'instruct' a new teacher is such a relief. He is reading books with her in kindergarten and will take those with him to first grade, just as his reading skills test is already scheduled. Both his teacher and we know that he will love to learn and discover new things and his teacher can't wait to spend another year with him! What more can an almost six-year old ask for?

As I was cleaning the first grade classroom at school, I ran into Little Brother's teacher who was sorting out kindergarten stuff in her classroom. Suddenly I spotted Ko, a doll that each kid gets to take home for a weekend. Parents have to write a short report in Ko's diary, preferably with pictures of all the weekend activities Ko has 'participated' in (the report has turned into a kind of social show off and scrapbooking competition between mothers). After politely playing along, first with Big Brother and this year also with Little Brother, I won't miss smelly, dirty Ko for a single moment and couldn't hide my joy. Fortunately Little Brother's teacher could see the joke as well.

Good ol' Ko showed me that it's time to move on and close this chapter. First grade, here we come!

"Big Brother, do you know why you are here?" Big Brother, shy but at the same time very resolute, replies: "Yes, to discuss my test results." His teacher whispers that she has just told him that in the hallway; we mentioned the meeting to Big Brother at breakfast as well. Papa, mama, his teacher, the special education resource teacher, the school's internal supervisor: our boy has gathered quite the crowd. The internal supervisor turns towards him: "We have come up with a plan for you. You did such a great job on your test and you're doing really well in general. How about you join the group where you have been going for extra classes this year after the summer? Would you be alright with that, to skip a class and go straight to third grade instead of second? We all hope it will be less boring for you." Big Brother's eyes become huge and everybody in the room witnesses how his mind, as well as his body, processes the message. His lip trembles for a moment, then he pulls himself together and says: "Yes!"

I didn't sleep much last night. How to come up with what would be best for Big Brother? How to deal with school's strict terms and regulations? How to stick to the non-doing? In the end - it was long after midnight - I concluded that the answer would be by doing nothing. Simple and not easy at all.

After the special education resource teacher had explained her calculations and openly admitted that she kept re-calculating, because she had rarely seen figures like these, our jaw dropped. Completely. By now, we had guessed Big Brother was gifted. However, after we heard that Big Brother had scored beyond the limits of the IQ test on certain elements, which made calculating his exact IQ even more difficult, we were speechless. Absolutely flabbergasted. Our boy?!

The internal supervisor completely smoothened the non-doing part for us. We were only five minutes into the meeting, when she told us how the team of teachers had already convened to discuss Big Brother's case. That in the first time in the school's history, they were offering a child the possibility to skip a grade and that Big Brother was even eligible to skip two grades. Letting him skip a grade would allow him to enroll in the gifted program of Day A Week School, and that would only be the start. Next year he would be tested further, in order to see what other extras would be required.

I guess I need a drink. Our mysterious Big Dreamer has surprised us to an extent we never held possible.

Little Brother is doing the best he can, in coming to terms with the fact that he isn't in the spotlights as much as he'd like to be. Until yesterday, when he gave us the finger, followed by a reprimand from us, which he countered by the utmost forbidden swearword. We got it, loud and clear. This isn't his usual behavior at all (phew!) and he made, in his own 'unique' way, quite the statement: LOOK AT ME!
We did - and we do, as always. He doesn't come second in any way, nor is he any less important than his older brother. However, I can't blame Little Brother for thinking that everything revolves around Big Brother. Big Brother hasn't been feeling comfortable in school for months and his mood is going downhill. Little Brother feels very sorry for him and tries to cheer him up. He hates to see his hero unhappy and knows that he'd better take a step back at times.

To witness their brotherly love is magical. They have such a deep understanding for each other's feelings and genuinely want the best for each other. Big Brother in turn helped Little Brother practice for his first kung fu exam. He had been there before and sensed how insecure Little Brother was about his skills. All week he trained with him, giving constructive advice: "Now you made only four mistakes. Do it again, and perhaps you'll make two mistakes." I chuckled, because he sounded just like the boys' sifu: fair but very though. Little Brother stuck to kung fu as we'd hoped he would and was considered ready by his teacher to earn his first belt.

Saturday we all attended his exam and he passed! Little Brother made more than four mistakes, but confidently started and ended his kung fu form, just as sifu told him to. Then sifu kneeled down to hand Little Brother his belt, something I hadn't seen him doing before. At five, Little Brother is probably one of the youngest of the kung fu school and sifu decided to reward his motivation. Sifu said how he'd chosen a dark golden belt for Little Brother, to set him apart from Big Brother, who has a light golden belt. Little Brother didn't hesitate for one moment and threw his arms around sifu's neck for a hug. I had to restrain myself for not doing the same, grateful as I was for his teacher's sharp observation.

This morning I carefully wrapped Little Brother's official kung fu certificate in plastic, in an attempt to make it kindergarten-proof. Anything to make Little Brother's moment in the spotlights last a bit longer, because he undoubtedly deserves it!

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