I made it through my last kindergarten graduation recently. There was a slight emotional breakdown when I gave his teacher a hug, but other than that I managed to keep it together.
All three of my boys had the same, wonderfully amazing, kindergarten teacher so I attribute my minor breakdown to a cumulative reminiscing effect, not just because this time it was my baby graduating. Images of all three of their nervous, 5-year-old selves meeting her for the first time, attending all the adorable, kindergarten-only activities throughout the year, and then seeing them march confidently across the stage with their graduation hat tassels swinging–only suddenly they’re 18!– all flashed before my eyes in one brief second. It was a really a miracle I managed to pull myself back together within about 30 seconds.
That was my initial justification for it, anyway, but the more I think about it the more I know it is mostly because he is my last one and that I’ll never get to experience the playfulness, the sweetness, or the innocence that is a kindergartener again. At least not from this perspective, anyway.
It’s also because my youngest has grown tremendously in the span of this one quick school year. Compared to his 2 brothers (and I KNOW you are not supposed to compare your kids, but I’d like to meet a parent who has somehow managed to NEVER compare their kids in one way or another), Ryan has changed the most significantly during the kindergarten year. Check out his super scared twin on the first day of school.
The terrified face. The forced smile. The arm clenched tightly to his chest, fingers gripping his shirt. Play-doh, unopened for fear he’ll do it wrong. They must be a set of those fraternal type twins because I see almost no resemblance between these two, besides their perfectly tanned skin.
This one is insecure, temperamental, obsessive, and extremely self-critical. He can’t remember all the letter sounds, has trouble writing the ‘y’ in his own name, gives up immediately if he writes his 3 backwards, and HATES getting up in the morning on school days. I wasn’t sure I’d made the right choice with this March birthday boy when I decided to start him in kindergarten this year, and after a few weeks I was afraid my fears were being confirmed.
We stuck it out, though, through many miserable homework assignments and even more torturous reading assignments. Then, about halfway through the year things started to change. He began reciting reading and writing rules he’d learned as he worked (almost independently) through his homework. He’d ask me to sit and listen to him read instead of me forcing him to do it. If he brought home an art project, he’d point out his mistakes but say he tried his best to do it the way the teacher instructed, instead of hanging his head and avoiding eye contact while he told me he did a bad job because it was too hard. And although he consistently maintained his reputation as the slowest one in the morning the entire year, he didn’t complain as much or as dramatically about going to school anymore.
By the end of the year, confidence replaced his insecurity, there was more perseverance than impatience as he painstakingly wrote his letters or sounded out the words in his take home readers, and though I don’t think his attitude towards school will ever be carefree, he is now able to let things go more easily if he makes a mistake.
So he made it. He’s no longer the ignorant kindergartener he was back in August but has transformed into a knowledgeable, fearless first grader. He’s just as prepared as his brothers were when they started first grade, which allows me to breathe a sigh of relief for the next few months.
He may, actually, be even more prepared than they were, as I sit here, think back, and compare them all.