Pre-School Graduation Is Dumb Until Your Kid Graduates Pre-School

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shutterstock_101881144I’ve always thought that the only graduations that truly mattered were high school and college. All the little ones in between- pre-school, kindergarten, 5th or 6th grade, 8th grade- seemed to make the big ones somehow anti-climactic. How many times can a person perform the ritual of graduating without its meaning being lost or diminished? To me, it was on par with the participation trophy. Go big, or go home- why bother until it’s the real deal?


That said, last week, my son finished pre-school. Although he is still attending the same daycare and staying in his class the rest of the summer, the “academic” portion of this year is complete and he will begin kindergarten this fall. Our older child attended a different school for pre-K and they did not have a graduation ceremony so this was our first experience with it.


I was prepared to inwardly roll my eyes at pre-school graduation and think to myself “great, let’s celebrate passing Finger Painting 101 and no longer needing a nap”. That is, until we got the cute invitation home in our son’s backpack from daycare a few weeks ago. My knee-jerk cynicism was about to kick in when I briefly pictured his sweet teachers planning this little shindig to honor our son and his classmates. I felt a few strong feels but still thought it was something we could do without. After all, with our daughter’s broken arm and a slew of other family things going on, I had used up quite a lot of time off from work recently and wasn’t too eager to use more regardless of the reason. Even so, the invite was sweet and made me soften to the point of maybe not rolling my eyes whenever the topic was brought up.


Fast-forward to last week. My husband, daughter and I sat in the front row and waited for pre-school graduation to commence. I scanned through the program and checked the time, waiting impatiently. Although I was appreciative of his teacher’s efforts, I was still pretty firmly in the camp of “this is pointless”, until it happened. They cued up the Pomp and Circumstance and my sweet little boy and his classmates came in, single file. I was blithely watching at that point, filming with my phone, when suddenly, it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks- this was it. He wasn’t a baby anymore. In 13 years that will undoubtedly go by in a flash, we will be celebrating a graduation of a much larger caliber and a lot would be at stake but right now, our baby boy was just focusing extra hard on remembering where he was supposed to walk to next and scanning the big scary crowd for our familiar faces.



Can you blame me for crying?


I became totally overwhelmed and unleashed The Ugly Cry right then and there. Watching the video now, I can tell my hand was shaking and I can hear myself quietly swallowing back sobs while my daughter sweetly asks if I’m alright. Seeing him trying so hard and looking so proud of himself nearly did me in and I began to realize that this was a milestone worthy of ceremony and celebration, despite my initial thoughts. Our baby was no longer a baby and with his hand-made construction paper graduation cap tilted just so, he was going to step over “the bridge” and become a big kindergartener. I could feel the last bit of cynicism leaving my body as he made his way to the front to get his little diploma. I barely held it together the rest of the ceremony and definitely drank a few glasses of wine that evening.


In the days after, I felt intensely grateful thinking about his pre-school experience. For all the trouble his teachers went to in organizing the ceremony and everything they had done all year to teach our boy manners, the alphabet, how not to get pee on the toilet seat and how to be a good friend. It may not go on his college application but this was a big start heading toward a long period of learning and growing. Maybe pre-school graduation isn’t just a silly, Instagram-worthy, parent-pandering photo op. It is more of a beginning than an end, really- the end of the baby years and the beginning of the rest of their academic career. If that’s not worth celebrating, I’m not sure what else is.

(Image: Alexey Losevich/Shutterstock)