We attended Elliott’s graduation this week. Pre-school graduation. I’ve always found the concept of graduations from anything other than high school or college rather silly. At least with a high school diploma you’re eligible to join the military and many segments of the work force. With a college diploma you inherit a few extra letters on the end of your name, which I’ve heard look great on a resume, especially if you’re interested in operating on sick animals or you dream of one day shouting “order in the court.” But I wasn’t sure what came with a pre-school diploma. Kindergarten?
It also felt a little odd that many of my high school friends have been posting graduation pictures of their children the past couple of weeks – real graduations – high school and, yes, even some from college. And I was going to watch my oldest graduate from pre-school. I don’t know what I felt more: old or just way behind in the race to find the empty nest.
I was surprised when we walked into the graduation to find so many people there. Parents, siblings, grandparents and even a video crew. I scanned the audience for Kindergarten recruiters, but none stuck out to me.
Then the ceremony began, and with it, something very magical. Ms. Stewart, one of the Kiddie Kingdom directors opened by saying that more than a graduation, we were there as part of a celebration of what the kids had accomplished over the last couple of years. The kids then sang songs they had picked out themselves to sing. They wore goofy props and did silly dances.
After the singing and dancing, we were treated to a slide show of various pictures of the kids from over the years. In the show there was a picture of Elliott from his first year at Kiddie Kingdom, the year he had wild hair and was often mistaken for a girl. I don’t have the exact picture, but it looked like this one:
Then the kids all had a chance to walk up on the stage as their teachers shared memories about each one of them. They talked about the things that made each child special. Ms. Luck praised Elliott for his ability and desire to teach others the things he knows how to do (and pointed out not the least of those things is his ability to make paper airplanes.) They also revealed when Elliott grows up he wants to be a policeman so he can see how fast a car really goes. I guess I need to make him watch more NASCAR.
By this time, I had come to realize that a pre-school graduation didn’t lack any of the significance of the other graduations. Sometime during the celebration it hit me that the alternative to celebrating our children is ignoring them, the alternative to recognizing their growth is to miss out on a chance to shape the most impressionable creature on earth. A curly haired baby was now a little boy with his own thoughts and dreams, and so many of them were inspired by the wonderful team of teachers and staff at Kiddie Kingdom. I thank God for them, and I thank them for giving us the opportunity to pause and celebrate the precious gift of children.
And now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go put my “I’m the proud father of a Kiddie Kingdom graduate” bumper sticker on my truck.