Christina M. Currie: The graduation gamut

I was graduated-out nearly a week before "graduation."

I attended two graduations in two days -- one for preschool and one for kindergarten.

And, I'm looking at three invitations for "graduation."

I haven't decided yet whether they'll go into the "attend" file or the "send a check" file.

It's my fault. Nikki wasn't actually supposed to graduate from preschool. She's too young (by 22 days) for kindergarten. Besides, I think there's a rule that when you call the girl serving you a latte a "booger butt," you're not ready for kindergarten.

I knew she was in for another year, but I just didn't connect the dots when I saw the graduation notice posted. It's May, there's a lot going on, and I just plugged the date into my calendar.

So she got a practice run (and I got adorable pictures).

Adding that to the experience Nikki got this year, she's going to breeze through preschool next year -- I think.

I love hearing her recite the rules -- she's got such rhythm. "Keep yourself safe, keep your sings (she's still working in that "th" sound) safe and keep your friends safe."

Of course, now when I ask her what the rules are, she tells me "Keep you poops safe, keep your stink safe, keep your farts safe."

(When exactly is she going to grow out of this stage? I know for boys the answer is "never," but please. I'm not sure I ever expected a 4-year-old girl to be so engrossed with bodily functions. I'm sure that the only reason she's not making inappropriate sounds with her armpits is because no one has shown her how yet. And, NO, that is not an invitation.)

Anyway, I take that as another reason she's probably better off in preschool for another year.

So, it's with that knowledge that I sat through her fake graduation ceremony.

After it started, I looked across the room and was surprised by how many teary eyes I saw.

I admit, I kind of scoffed. I mean, "preschool" graduation and all.

The next morning, we rose for Katie's kindergarten graduation. As the class filed in, my eyes began to well up. I spent most of the ceremony doing everything I could -- including a little self-scoffing -- to keep the tears from flowing.

There's really no lesson like the one you learn from experience. For good measure, I hope someone was standing across the room, watching thinking "Jeez, it's only kindergarten, what's she getting so worked up about?"

Maybe it was because they played "Forever Young" during the slide show. Maybe it's because Katie looked so proud up there performing for a "real" audience. Maybe it was because Nikki was sitting next to me applauding by slapping her head.

Maybe there was just a lot of dust in the air.

I guess if you look at the journey as a whole, it seems daunting, even overwhelming and impossible. But, when you measure the little milestones, you can reach your goal by taking one step at a time.

The high school seniors who walk Saturday probably don't remember their little milestones -- the steps they've taken, little and big, to reach this moment. But each one of those small benchmarks was a step toward the blue or white cap and gown they'll don.

Graduation is an achievement, whether you are 5 or 18.

It's an achievement for parents, too. Although our children took the steps and made the decisions, we put them on the path and nudged them in the right direction. We comforted and supported them when that path was difficult, and we stood back and let them have the experience when we knew they were choosing the wrong fork.

Congratulations to the 2006 graduates, big and small -- they'll hear that a lot during the next few days.

What you won't see from Hallmark is a card that gives parents a pat on the back, so that's what I'd like to do.

Congratulations parents -- this is your achievement as much as theirs.

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