A preschool graduation is almost as arbitrary as a 1-year-old’s birthday party. They are both milestones that should be acknowledged, but would it really make a difference if we didn’t have some over-the-top ceremony? The children themselves have no concept of the significance of what’s going on, and both events are really more for us than they are for them.
I went into my son’s preschool graduation last week wearing my “over it” face, jeans and flip flops. Right away, I was out of place. Everyone was dressed up like they were going to church. Actually, they were dressed like they were going to church and sitting next to Jesus.
Me, I was just hoping to keep my 3-year-old calm enough during the entire process and still make it to the gym in time for my class.
As we sat outside on wooden steps that leveled down toward a small stage with tiny chairs awaiting the “graduates,” I did some phone-surfing and younger sibling-hushing. I occasionally lifted my head to nod at parents I knew, being careful not to hold eye contact so long that they would think it was an invitation for conversation.
Then, the music started, and the preschoolers slowly marched down the steps, their eyes and curious smiles searching the crowds for a familiar face. They wore red graduation gowns and caps, most of which were just a little to big for their little frames.
They sat in their chairs, fidgeting this way and that as the director of the preschool program welcomed the guests. Then, just like my college graduation, the students stood and sang songs about sunshine about Jesus before accepting their “diplomas.” (Sarcasm!)
I laughed to myself at how cute, albeit ridiculous, the entire thing was. I was definitely going to have to rush to make it to the gym, but I figured I could stand to hear some little voices harmonize “I’ve got the joy joy joy joy down in my heart” for a little longer.
After the kids all had their diplomas in hand, they sang one last song. Suddenly, the rest of the world was going dark, and I could only see my son sitting on that little stage.
I focused on his boyish features: His almond-shaped eyes, which were fixed on me. They were peeking out from his blondish hair, which was in need of a trim. I hadn’t thought to cut it for the big day, because, of course, I didn’t really think it was a big day. His sweet little mouth was moving along with the words to the song, though I couldn’t tell if he were actually singing. All week long, he had been “practicing” his graduation songs at home and in the car. “Mom! Do you want to hear ‘Little Things’ again?” he would call. I would roll my eyes, sigh deeply and reluctantly agree. Because, of course, I didn’t really think it mattered.
But as I watched him on stage that morning, all that sarcasm and indifference disappeared. I saw my 5-year-old in a cap and gown and realized that I would go to sleep that night, wake up and he would be graduating college. His little features seemed even smaller in that moment. I could no longer hear whatever song it was they were singing, and tears quickly blurred my vision.
Life likes to hand us lessons when we least expect it. I certainly did not anticipate that a preschool graduation would remind me to slow down and appreciate those little things. I still think it’s a little over-the-top, but maybe this is one time that it’s OK.