Why Preschool Graduation Is Such A Big Deal
There’s something almost magical about a preschool graduation, where preciousness and innocence meet pomp and circumstance.
There’s something so symbolic in watching five-year-olds march forward together, each of their tiny heads adorned with a cap so special it will only be worn a few times throughout their lives.
I watch them walk toward the stage, and I think about all the trials they’ll go through together, and all the triumphs they’ll share, before they even turn 19.I shake my head, with both an ache in my heart and a smile on my face, for these babies who can’t possibly know yet just how much they’re going to mean to each other.
Lined up on stage, half bewildered, they wave to the special people sitting in the crowd — the ones who have come to watch them grow up. Out in the seats, we start to think about all that’s coming next for the children we love so much. We know it’s time for this chapter to come to an end, and yet, it’s so bittersweet to have to let go.
This chapter has been one of littleness and whimsy, of play and adventure, of shortened school hours and carefree days. But we’ve been told it’s time for kindergarten. It’s time to let our children go, and to let the “real” learning begin. And too soon after that, we add to it the “real” sports, the “real” talents, and the “real” jobs. And eventually, the “real” world will whisk our children away.
But I have to wonder sometimes if we grown-ups have simply forgotten what’s real.
In truth, as I look back on my son’s preschool experiences, I have to believe that, in many ways, they were packed full of the “realest” learning he will ever do.
And I wonder…
Is preschool the last time our babies get to be their realest, truest, and most authentic selves?
Is this the last time their natural silliness will be regularly encouraged?
Is it the last time they get to dream their happiest dreams without a voice in their ears or their minds telling them it’s time to dream something different?
Is it the last time they’ll go through a school year without someone suggesting that they might not have what it takes to do XYZ thing?
Is it the last time they won’t feel defined by an IEP, or by a teacher’s opinion, or by an education that meets state and federal standards but that doesn’t always allow them to explore their individual abilities and interests?
Is it truly this early, at just five or six years old, that our children will begin to feel the pressure to conform to societal norms?
Is preschool the last time our kids are mostly free of the burdens of achievement and comparison?
Truthfully, preschool offers a beautiful bubble, inside which a child’s dreams and his happiness are kept safe and protected from an often harsh world. And it feels real inside that bubble.
In preschool, everyone seems to understand that life is meant to be about joy and relationships. The rest should fit in the cracks. But after preschool, I worry that joy will start to fill the cracks of all the “real” instead.
So, I have to believe this moment — this one brief moment, at this preschool graduation — matters more than we’ve ever imagined.
It exists so we can celebrate a sweet little life that’s moving forward, yes. And it’s not lost on me that, for a mother, this is the very greatest of privileges. For this, I’m endlessly thankful.
But preschool graduation also gives me one brief moment to catch time in my hand and keep it still. To hold on to my baby and to study the last of his littleness. To memorize his beautiful face.
For just this one moment, I get to celebrate all the magic of the past two years. I get to simply be grateful that so much of what will matter in his life has already been shaped inside the four walls where his curiosity was encouraged.
Where his personality was appreciated. Where his brilliance and his potential and his joy were applauded.
Where he went out in the world as himself and felt loved.
As a mama, I want to capture this incredible moment. Because, yes, I’m overjoyed to have a kindergartener…but I’m also just so thankful for what we gained at preschool.
This place and these teachers will always hold such a real and meaningful place in our hearts.