Friday, June 25, 2010

Their First Graduation

I admit it, I've been a cynic about the growing trend of allowing kids to "graduate" from anything other than, say, high school.  Since I was a kid, it seems graduation ceremonies have multiplied, and now kids are donning caps and gowns for eighth grade graduation, elementary school graduation, and yes, even preschool graduation.  From the outside looking it, before I become a parent, this trend just seemed to me an extension of the growing American over-emphasis on self-esteem -- making everybody a winner, and conflating every move up a grade level into some extraordinary achievement.

But I am a cynic no more.

I liked the home-made motorboards.

They were made of construction paper, and each preschooler decorated his or her own.

No rented graduation caps for these kids, nor formal robes.  This was a happily home-spun graduation, from a warm, fuzzy preschool. 

My kids were among the 25, who marched into the sanctuary confidently, took their seats on the bimah, sang a song about going to kindergarden, another about all they've done in preschool, and an appropriately titled ditty, "Use Your Words."

They waved colored scarves.  They each spoke into a microphone to say their names and what they want to be when they grow up.  Dog trainer was the most popular choice, followed closely by princess.  There were also some race car drivers, hockey players, gardeners, artists, teachers. One kid said she was going to make commercials.  Another said he'd be a movie maker.  This was probably to be expected.  It may be a down-to-earth preschool, but we do live in Southern California.

Thing 1 had set his sights on being a race car-driving hockey player drummer; this was a big sign of maturity, since last year he'd declared he would simply grow up to "be a race car."  Yes, me meant an actual car.  Thing 2 combined professions of gardener and "rainbow princess," which is clearly much more exciting than being a regular princess.

Each kid got to march up to the heads of the school, take a rolled diploma (fake ones:  the real ones were handed to the parents for safe-keeping later), and hug their teachers, the rabbi and cantor.  They stood under two talit and the cantor sung a blessing.  

Then they marched out -- or ran into the arms of waiting parents, siblings, relatives.  We all traipsed upstairs to the social hall, whereupon the kids did a rehearsed dance to the Black Eyed Peas' "Tonight's Gonna Be A Good Night."  And it was, especially when the girls, then the boys, took their turns performing mini dance solos.  Thing 1 was particularly adept at twirling, and his little necktie with the baseball-player pattern twirled with him.  With his first formal lace-up shoes (god bless Payless), hand-me-down blue slacks (thanks Nancy, mom to Myles and Evan), and Calvin Klein dress shirt, he was a picture of sartorial splendor, even when the shirt tails fell out.  Thing 2, in her purple velvelty dress, gold shoes (again, thank you Payless), and sparkly purple hairband, was a vision of little girl loveliness.

Next came dinner and  cake (where there are Jews, there must be cake), a slide show, family portrait-taking, and something that was way better than at any of my own graduations:  the kids got graduation bags full of toys. I didn't even get that when I graduated from an Ivy League university.

As we left the school in the golden hour, just before sunset, the kids ran up the Santa Monica side street to our car, clutching balloons, without a care in the world.

Late Blooming Dad turned to me and said, "Let's remember this moment."

To all the preschool graduates this June, mazel tov.  And to all your parents:  you, too, remember this moment.

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