Thursday, May 31, 2012

Goodbye, Kindergarten

All the Sibley School afternoon-kindergarten moms held it together pretty well yesterday, at least during the ceremony part of kindergarten graduation--when the kids marched in wearing cardboard mortarboard caps that I happened to be in charge of helping them paint, on my last volunteer day; sang some little songs; recited original poems chosen from their Poetry Books; and received colorful diplomas.

My theory about our emotional fortitude is that the ceremony itself tends to be more entertaining than sad. I felt this way two years ago as well. I mean, yes, I teared up a little at those lyrics, above. But when the kindergartners read their poems, their teacher projected onto the screen the text of each--and in kindergarten, the kids are allowed to write phonetically (meaning, however the hell they think things are spelled in their little five-and-six-year-old minds). Which meant that, for example, you get things like this up on the screen during kindergarten graduation:


Let me tell you, Christopher and I were in the front row, right in front of the screen, and we were in fits of silent giggles waiting to hear what the second line of that poem was really going to be. Thankfully, the child-poet recited, "She cooks me BROWNIES."

(Also: no pork was involved.)

Unfortunately the ceremony was situated directly in front of a set of doors, hence the poor lighting.

So I was woefully emotionally unprepared when, after the ceremony was over, we all retired into the classroom for a slide show. Perhaps I should mention that Julia's kindergarten teacher, two years ago, was--while an excellent teacher, and very good for Julia at the time--not exactly the emotional, effusive, or sentimental type. In contrast, Genevieve's bubbly teacher had created a slide show of photos she had taken throughout the year, adorned it with graphics and type, and set it to music. We all sat and watched the slide show up on the SmartBoard screen at the front of the room, and saw our children's entire kindergarten year pass by in front of our eyes. The field trips, the holiday celebrations, the Writers' Workshop, the art projects, the playground recesses, the reading, the learning.

Then, at the end of the slide show, set to some quiet and poignant song with lyrics that had something to do with someone (your mama, maybe?) loving your little self so much--forgive me, I believe my brain was frantically trying to block it out at this point--this teacher had included a photo of each child standing against a colorful wall, holding a large sign she had written herself, saying what she wants to be when she grows up. Grinning with pride. Eager. Joyful. Showing off the little-kid handwriting.

When I grow up I want to be a fire fighter.
When I grow up I want to be a teacher.
When I grow up I want to be a grocery store owner.
When I grow up I want to be a scientist. (Genevieve's.)
When I grow up I want to be a mom. 

And then all the moms died inside. 

Torture, people! The little faces! The printed words! OMG, THE SONG. There was something so touching and poignant about seeing those aspirations written out like that, held under those glowing baby faces. When I grow up, I want to be...  

What was it about those photos, exactly, that broke all the mamas' hearts? Was it the idea of our kiddos growing up? Was it wondering which of those dreams really would come true, and which wouldn't? Was it thinking about those little bundles of pure potential, launching out into the world? Was it the damn song?

I don't know, but I died. DIED. It was horrible. And wonderful. So horrible. So wonderful. I can't stand it.

And that's all I can really say about Genevieve's kindergarten graduation. It was a truly wonderful year. This teacher--wow, amazing. (You should see the Kindergarten Memory Book she sent home for each family--full of artwork and writing from the year, including paint handprints she had done for every child at regular intervals throughout the year, in seasonal colors, so now we have a visual record of how our children grew from September to May, and which we had no idea she was even doing.) 

I know the non-parents of the world can never grasp the real mourning that occurs at times like this--I know I didn't, before I became a mom. But I also know that every mom reading this knows exactly how I feel today, and her heart probably hurts a little bit in sympathy for mine, too. And I am so very grateful for that.


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