It was an important event in the Johnson household tonight. Our oldest, the illustrious Mr. G, graduated. From preschool.
Unfamiliar with preschool graduations, I was a little out of my element; unsure how to approach the event.
Should he dress up? Should we dress up? Should I cut his shaggy-too-long-hair? Should I buy him a present? Do I make a big deal out of it, or pass it off as a low-key event lest he get stressed out by all the hoopla?
I went with a middle of the road approach. He took a bath – but only because he was filthy from playing outside. He wore a button up shirt…with jeans and tennis shoes. We wore nice-ish clothes. And Jason actually shaved, though he first came downstairs with a soul patch and thin mustache, claiming he’d run out of razor blades. We laughed heartily, with the tacit understanding he wouldn’t be leaving the house in that state. I didn’t cut G’s hair, because he kept coming up with excuses like: ‘maybe when I’m seven you can cut my hair’, or, ‘after my snack I’ll think about (whether you can cut my hair).’
I just didn’t have the energy to insist on a hair cut today. But apparently I’d mentioned his need for a hair cut for ‘gradulation’ a few too many times. As we were preparing to leave he announced: ‘maybe I’ll tell Miss Darlene (teacher) I’m sorry that I didn’t get a hair cut for gradulation.’ Surely he won’t be apologizing to anyone for the state of his hair when he graduates from high school.
If I really think about it, I can get a little sad that our big boy is growing up and moving on. Going to ‘big’ school is a big deal. But when a fellow preschool mom told me there’d be another graduation after Kindergarten, and in 6th grade, and in high school……I got a little less sad. I’m all for celebrating milestones…but let’s not create milestones out of thin air. Even if, as Jason liked to point out several times, only 60% or so of those assembled will actually graduate from high school. So it’s best to celebrate in the early stages. And often.
The thing about group milestone celebrations is they’re fairly miserable experiences. Just survey the crowd for proof. People are wearing clothes they don’t necessarily want to wear. A good portion of the husbands/fathers are late while impatient women save their seats. And the men – they’re scoffing inwardly at the lameness of the occasion; cracking jokes about the wedding singer-like entertainment, or busting out the lyrics to ‘Billy Jean’ by Michael Jackson. (Or was that just Jason.) People get irritated with one another for a variety of reasons…the battery in the camera is dead, the video camera tape/disk is completely full, overzealous moms are taking too many pictures before the event’s even started, the room is hot and crowded and smelly. And parents with little ones gesture irritatedly to the other about doing ‘something’ to control their squirmy, unhappy baby/toddler.
By my count there were 36 almost-Kindergarteners in the room tonight. With their various entourages. The three classes entered separately; their members clad in a red cape and white cardboard hat with a taped-on red tassel. Each little person turning 360 degrees during the procession to try and find their parent – who is waving enthusiastically, mouthing encouragement and trying to make sure the camera is actually on.
The kids walked to the stage area, where they sang a song. ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ for the first class and ‘I’m a little teapot’ for the second. After singing the song, they played an instrumental (handbell) version. Some shook their bells with vigor and enthusiasm. Some (my child!) completely forgot to play when it was their turn – which means there were some gaps in the ‘teapot’ song.
After the entertainment, each child was called to the stage individually. As they walked towards their teacher she made a couple of comments about the particular kid, before giving them their ‘diploma’. When it was our boy’s turn, she commented on how much she loved his smile; his infectious enthusiasm. And what a terrible sharer he was at the sand table. ‘Tis true. About one of his classmates, she said: ‘her favorite song is the Clean Up song…she doesn’t like to clean up, she just likes the song.’
With diploma in hand, G walked off the stage and back to his seat. Seconds later he bolted towards my seat in the audience. He handed me his ‘diploma’ and asked if he could take off his red cape ‘because it’s making me hot.’ Not sensing huge value in ordering him to return to the ceremony, we walked outside where he obligingly sat on a rock so I could take a couple of pictures. Then he removed his finery. When we walked back inside, graduation was over, and it was time for cake.
The poor wedding-singer guy, who’d been patiently waiting for more than an hour to play, started strumming his guitar. Singing ‘if you’re happy and you know it.’ I drank some Jello-like punch while a couple of moms joked about spiking their punch. I got a couple of pieces of cake for the boys and headed outside.