Friday, May 17, 2013

Preschool graduation

Ezekiel 34:27 (NIV)

The trees will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in their land. They will know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them.
Preschool graduations are not my thing. When Max was sick the day of his “graduation” from the three-year-old class last spring, I wasn’t exactly heartbroken. But despite being ill Monday this week, he was in full health today and after lunch we headed off to celebrate the end of his preschool career.

While the mortarboards and “Pomp and Circumstance” were still a bit much for me, I will admit enjoying the afternoon. How could I be anything but happy to see such a genuine smile on my kid’s face? He was excited about the ceremony itself — it was clear he was a little nervous trying to remember all the words to his songs, where to walk when and so forth. But as he stood on the little platform to accept his “diploma” and pose for pictures with his teachers, it was clear he somehow grasped the significance of the day.

Max, his teachers and a 2012-2013 preschool scrapbook.
Plus, after all the birthday parties I’ve taken him to this year, I’m starting to know a lot of the parents and kids in his class. Not on a deep level of course. Most of them I know only as “Madison’s mom” or “Evan’s Dad,” but I don’t suppose they know much more about me. But despite the wide age range among the parents, the fact some of us are experienced in sending our kids off to school and others are going through this for the first and perhaps only time, we all share the bond of having a little one ready for kindergarten.

My favorite part of the event was returning to the classroom after the ceremony. The teachers made scrapbooks for each kid with a year’s worth of photographs and art projects. After Max showed Kristie every page, he turned to some of his classmates. “See? This is a picture of me in my penguin costume and you in your cat costume!” They all know his name (he’s Max H. in order to be different from Max Y.) and he knows theirs, and some of their parents and grandparents, and it’s just such a thrill to see any of our kids have age-appropriate peer interactions. Something about those fleeting, substance-free conversations somehow makes me more aware of the growing up process.

So Max is now ready for kindergarten. In a few weeks Jack will be done with the elementary school and ready for the intermediate (fourth and fifth grade) building. It’s not quite as dramatic what we expect in 2022, when Jack graduates high school while Max is finishing eighth grade and Charlie wraps up fifth grade, but still, we’re clearly in another point of transition. Standing at the brink of summer it seems we’ve got a long way to go, but I know it’ll seem like only a few days have elapsed by the time we’re putting two kids on a school bus each day.

When I see the kids making progress and moving into different life phases, it does somewhat feel like a tree yielding its fruit. Not in the spiritual sense of course, but these little moments like today are significant because they give parents another milestone to observe. The first few years of life are all about big occasions — rolling over, sitting up, crawling, walking, talking first solid food, first tooth, first trip to the emergency room (I didn’t say they were all positive — and then, gradually, the red-letter events start to be a “few and far between” proposition. I don’t think I’ve had my own “big day” since I turned 30, and that was almost four years ago. Our ten-year anniversary last June elapsed almost without fanfare.

Not that I’m complaining. Life is all about the kids these days, and that’s how we wanted it to be. We’ve been parents for more than nine years ago, the larger majority of our married life. These children are our everything, and a day like today, when one of them has a smile plastered on their face, is a day worth remembering. “Kindergarten,” as Max’s class sang today, “here we come.”

A prayer for May 17:

Lord, thank you for special occasions and the chance to celebrate our children’s accomplishments. Thank you for the feeling of security that comes with a life of faith. Thank you for the strength of family ties and for being not just an overseer, but an active, essential element of our relationships. Help me as we again enter a period of transition and open my eyes to anything I might do or say to keep you and your love front and center as our routines and responsibilities evolve. Amen.

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