There were a total of nine graduates - 8 boys, 1 girl - and watching them interact with their own inside jokes, nicknames and playful banter reinforced that my son is no longer the little peanut we brought home from the maternity ward five years ago or the pudgy faced toddler who feared the idea of feeding himself or abandoning the nighttime security of a diaper. Among themselves, they nicknamed the lone girl 'Pink Ranger Princess' or something like that. She wore a pink gown and sat in the centre chair. Flanking her, the boys were very smart in their dark trousers and tuxedo t-shirts.
Seeing them laugh, joke, exchange knowing glances, I couldn't help from taking a moment to close my eyes (I actually did close them, the corn ball I am) and look into into the future. I saw my son with his new friends in primary school then into the secondary school years, bringing them home to do homework and projects, play some Wii or some other home entertainment gizmo, run around outside or go to the park to shoot some round ball, run home and raid our fridge for snacks and drinks. As they refresh and catch their breath, they'd banter about the upcoming school ball game and who thinks who's cute in Science class. In my mind's eye, it was all so idyllic; my own version of The Cosby Show or Family Ties, albeit with (so far) just one kid. I hope Jude gets to have these experiences, never losing the inncocent joy and unhindered interaction I witnessed at his graduation. It's a lot to wish for, since innocence is always lost, but, especially if you're a parent, I think you know what I mean. I hope and pray, too, that he keeps the friendships he's made at preschool - although, at his age now, this is largely dependent upon my wife and I, his parents - and that he makes true and lasting ones in primary school and beyond.
Tomorrow is graduation day at my school district. Our eighth graders will be moving on to high school and our seniors on to university or, for some, the military or the workforce. Wherever and whatever they do, it's a very unique time of their lives. It's a time of change - a little scary, perhaps, but always exciting - in which they can exert more and more of their own growing independence and individuality. It's a time for them, if they haven't already done so, to begin dreaming, thinking and planning for who they want to be when they're grown up and truly fending for themselves and making their mark on the world. I wish all of them luck and much success. I also encourage them to take moments to breathe and to look back, to close their eyes and remember their own preschool graduations and the innocence they possessed and hopefulness it offered. Time can't go backwards and as they get older they're going to get caught up in getting ahead; sometimes at the expense of remembering what they were getting ahead for. And, whatever they do, I hope they go at it with the enthusiasm and abandon they approached things when they were Jude's age. If they don't, there's going to be a regret and, worse still, a doubt or two inside them as they get older.
Life, after all, doesn't have to be a burden, although at times it feels that way. Life shoud be enjoyed. It's just sometimes we forget how to enjoy it. But, when we do - and we will - all we need is to go to a playground and watch kids play. If you have your own, stop what you're doing and watch them. If you don't, close your eyes, find a memory and watch yourself. And, when the smile kicks in, get back to what you were doing. It'll be a lot more fun.
Good luck graduates and congratulations.