Bittersweet Preschool GraduationCiaran Blumenfeld
About 60 children walked into the theater for this somewhat formal (but entirely heartfelt!) preschool graduation ceremony. They sat in small wooden chairs lining the stage. They sang in voices clear and brilliant in English, Italian and Hebrew and walked with pride and purpose, one by one, to claim their degrees. It was fascinating to watch which ones seemed to be in it for the hug, and which ones for that sheet of paper. A few, like my son, were clearly in it for both. It was tough not to cry.
I have so many warm and fuzzy memories centered on preschool, but mostly on the preschool experiences of my first and my last children- almost 12 years apart.
With my first I found myself as a mom. I found a community. Up until the day that my daughter started preschool, I was very isolated. I’d moved to California when she was an infant, I wasn’t working, I didn’t know anyone and I’d had a hard time making friends in my “drive in and enter through the garage” suburban community.
Preschool changed that for me and many of the women, other moms that I met those first two years, are still my closest friends. These are the people I sat and held hands with in the parking lot after 911. We drank coffee and jiggled strollers together. Time flies, and I don’t know how it’s possible that our babies are teens. 2 of my friends from my first year of preschool parenthood have since passed away. I’ve thought about that often as I visit with friends at my youngest son’s preschool. It makes me realize even more poignantly how precious every second with my son is. How these moments matter. I don’t think I really got that the first time around when my goals were more about making it through each individual day.
I’ve clung to preschool moments all year. I’ve drunk them in. I’ve taken near daily photos of the colorful art in the hallways, the fabulous manipulatives and activities in the classroom, the proud way my son races me to his classroom every day and then shoves me out the door. There’s such delight in his experience of school at this preschool and I want to record it. I know the day will come, in not very long, that we will both be nostalgic.
All around me I’ve watched the newer moms, those for whom this is their first child, meet and befriend each other. Just making it through the day. Grateful for an ally. This also makes me smile. I’m not at the exact same phase any more, but I’m still there with them. I can remember how it felt. Preschool still feels like a safe place for moms. But it won’t be for me anymore.
It’s time for my son, and thus me, to move on. This is the end of an era and I’m a little sad. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. Ready but sad.
We ended on a great note. This past year of preschool was probably the best of all. The teachers, the school, the parents and kids in the class – everything. Perfect. I’m so grateful for that. For my son and for me!