I didn’t cry at my daughter’s preschool graduation. When my little girl walked across that stage in her miniature cap and gown, I felt many things. Amazement at how much she’d grown in just a few short years. Pride in the girl she was becoming, who cared about others and was curious about the world around her. Anxiety that my camera might fail, and I’d forever miss my chance to memorialize this fleeting rite of passage.
And yet, in the midst of all those emotions, I didn’t cry. Which is rather surprising, as it doesn’t take much to get the waterworks going here. Yesterday I cried at the end of Disney’s Descendants. Looking back at my daughter’s graduation, I think it had to do with the baby I was holding in my arms. I could accept my daughter moving on from preschool as the beginning of an exciting new journey. Nothing was really ending, because my son had his preschool years ahead of him.
But this week it’s my son’s turn to graduate. This week, I’ll watch my little boy, my last baby, proudly walk across that preschool stage in his cap and gown, the great unknown of kindergarten looming ahead of him. And I’m kind of falling apart.
Somehow I took it for granted that these sweet, preschool years would continue to stretch like Play-Doh, endlessly filling our lives with joyful colors and textures.
I took it for granted that there would always be Mother’s Day and Father’s Day breakfasts filled with mini-doughnuts and construction-paper collages.
That there would always be red scribbled portraits of Mommy sent home in his backpack.
That there would always be circle time, and children singing about the weather and welcoming each other to class each day.
That there would always be group walks to the park, hours of play time, and homework-free evenings to kiss and cuddle.
That my baby would always light up when one of us arrived to pick him up, bursting with news about his day, happy to be going home to the best place he knows.
And now, suddenly, the preschool years are over. Just like that.
Yes, I know it’s not really “just like that.” If I think hard I can remember that blur of tear-filled hellos and good-byes, pastry-filled holiday parties, and family projects constructed of glue and tin foil. But today, suddenly all I can see are those front doors. The ones I walked through hundreds of times, my child’s hand in mine, stressed because I was running late, my mind running through the day’s tasks ahead of me.
Suddenly, all I can see is that we’ll never walk through those doors again.
I believe the cliche that as one door closes, another one opens. The adventure of elementary school awaits, and it’s a long and rich one, filled with fresh discoveries and amazing new worlds of letters and numbers. I look forward to sharing this journey with my children. But still I struggle to end this chapter. Still I struggle to say good-bye.
This time, when I watch my child proudly walk by in his cap and gown, things will be different. This time the good-byes will mean something new. The preschool years nurtured my babies, as they finger-painted and danced their way through toddlerhood. This time, when we walk out the door, it will be the end of early childhood.
And there will be tears.
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