It appears I have graduated again. It is a different sort of graduation. There is no pomp and circumstance, but there should be because it is one that marks a particularly large change for me. Yesterday I watched my youngest child, five years old for a mere week, “graduate” from preschool. And just like that, I have to admit that a certain passage of my life is over.
Six years ago, here was Oldest graduating. I was probably a bit smug in my singular feelings of happiness amongst all the other sniffling mothers. Here was my first born, finished with preschool and eagerly awaiting kindergarten in the fall. He was ready and excited to be moving on to “big kid school” and so was I. I was just so proud of him and how well he had transitioned through all the rites of early childhood. And I didn’t need to be sad. After all, Middlest was still my little baby-ish girl and this was all part of my plan. Two children, a stay-at-home mom for a few years, and then back to work when they were in school. With this graduation, the whole family was a bit farther along our planned path.
And then it was Middlest’s turn. She seemed so big and mature – she had an extra year of preschool due to her fall birthday. It seemed natural to sit next to her at the preschool graduation and applaud her achievements with dry eyes. This little girl was ready for “big kid school” in the fall. Her name, numbers, the whole alphabet, counting, cutting itsy-bitsy bits of paper with scissors…there was nothing she needed help with so of course it was time to let go of my preschooler and embrace my big kid. Also, I wasn’t teary eyed because Littlest had made his debut in our lives and so this graduation was just another milestone.
And then it happened. The seasons passed and so did the years until some how we are here. And I’m not so sure I like it here very much. This spring, Littlest graduated from preschool and Oldest graduates from elementary school.
As I looked through the digital pictures this morning, I giggled a bit at myself. There are only a few photos of Oldest, and one of Middlest. And nineteen of Littlest. It isn’t that I’m more proud of Littlest’s achievement or that he is my favorite. Only a year ago we got a nifty new camera and I take way more photos of things now. I take so many more photos of all the milestones, even the ones the size of a pebble. And our family’s path seems filled with them. So there are lots and lots of photos.
But the photo that is missing is the one of me torn between the happy and the sad. Dancing that dance of bitter and sweet.
Because with all these graduations I have been graduating as well. No longer am I the mother of really little kids. There are still many years of hands-on parenting ahead of me, but they will be different years than what I’ve had before. A middle-schooler needs different parenting techniques than a preschooler. And a home with all school-age kids has a different pace and energy than one that includes a preschool drop-off.
Three times I’ve had “real” graduations complete with caps and gowns, diplomas and receptions. I’ve never cried at one of my own graduations, not even during my Master’s hooding ceremony. Each time I was simply filled with a sense of accomplishment for having worked hard at a goal and graduation was the happy and fitting close of those chapters.
But this graduation is a bit different. I think because it snuck up on me. There was no list of courses highlighted with exams and essays. Instead it was days and days of wiping noses and bottoms, answering questions and asking my own such as “peanut butter or jelly on your toast?” Somewhere along the course of wishing to be done with diapers and carrying binkies in my purse enough boxes were checked that I managed to get here, a faux graduation of sorts.
So I think today I will make myself a graduation cake, hum Pomp and Circumstance a time or two, and walk rather stately about the house while I’m picking up the socks and shoes and wrinkled homework sheets. I may even wear a dress and put on make-up.
After all, a mom doesn’t graduate every day, now does she?