My 5 year old will be finishing preschool this week. She’s spent the last two years learning her ABCs and numbers. She’s become familiar with some of the procedures of the education system: lining up, raising her hand, speaking in front of a group of people, and waiting her turn. Make no mistake: the child has learned a lot; I’m proud of her.
But I’m flabbergasted at the big deal that’s being made of the end of her preschool years. Her teachers, sweethearts that they are, have planned a full-fledged “graduation ceremony” consisting of songs, caps and gowns, and diplomas. Most of it, of course, is for the benefit of the parents. We’ve been paying for our kids to go to preschool and, I suppose, many want to see the fruition of their spending. They want to see a finale – a big show. I guess, too, the teachers feel they’re helping the children move from one phase of their lives to another.
But a graduation? The kids didn’t need to pass any tests, didn’t study, didn’t complete any projects. Nor, of course, should they have had to. It was, after all, nursery school. The children will have plenty of years ahead to fret about homework and such. But graduation implies achievement. Showing up isn’t something earned; it’s something done.
I know all of the intentions are good and my daughter is very excited. Dad will take the day off from work. I’ll be videotaping it. Her brother, who himself is graduating this year from elementary school, will be on a trip around Manhattan (because every 10 year old needs a cruise around the Big Apple to celebrate finishing grade school – NOT). Diva is sad he’ll be missing her “big day” but she’s dealing with it, knowing he’ll watch the video of it later.
In the meantime, the Little One has been greatly influenced by some of the fifth grade girls in the neighborhood who are, perhaps justifiably, making a big to-do about their graduations. These girls have worked hard through elementary school, developing study habits, learning how to do research, becoming responsible students who are poised for middle school. They’re on the cusp of tween-hood. They’re buying special graduation dresses and kitten-heeled shoes. They’re getting ready to go to chaperoned parties where there will be boys. There’s a LOT of giggling involved.
Consequently, the Diva asked me for a “pretty graduation dress.” I was torn: do I encourage the hoopla about the end of school or do I downplay it even though everyone at preschool is making a big deal of it? In the end, I tried to walk the line between making her happy and not breaking the budget over what I perceive is a mediocre event. We went to Old Navy, with a coupon in hand, and bought her a nice sun dress that she’ll wear, for the first time, at graduation and beyond. In her mind, she got her “fancy graduation dress;” in mine, I bought her a pretty dress she’ll wear all summer.
Come September, I’ll celebrate with her the beginning of something truly amazing: the start of her public education as she enters kindergarten. I’ll cry, just as I did with my first child, mourning the end of babyhood. I’ll miss her terribly on that day, waiting to hear the miracles she’s discovered at Collins Elementary. That, combined with my son’s first day of Middle School, will ensure that Mom will be a mess (expect Kleenex stock to rise dramatically).
Yes, my wonderful daughter learned a lot in preschool. And she has much, much more glorious learning ahead. When she completes her elementary education, then we will truly call it a Graduation.
This is an original post for Jersey Moms Blog by MomsCrayon, a New Jersey mom.
Photo credit given to Creative PreSchool Activities.