It's that time of the year, when barbecues, pool parties, and, of course, graduations, reign supreme. And, for a parent, nothing can beat the sheer emotional chaos that is a preschool graduation. Having been there myself, and on my way to a second (and last), I consider it my duty to let other parents know how to survive a preschool graduation, because it's not as straightforward as it seems.
If you've never been through a preschool graduation, you're probably wondering why this is even remotely a big deal. I mean, it's not like graduating from preschool is a major accomplishment. The kids aren't going off into the "real world" or anything. Hell, most aren't even going to attend a different school. Why would anyone be emotional about a preschool graduation, right?
Wrong! This is incredibly sentimental, people! This is the first time many of us parents really internalize the idea that our babies are only our babies for so long, and, at some point, we're going to have to give them over to the world to learn and grow and, one day, live a life that is basically completely separate from the one we have built for them. That's a lot. And it can sneak up on you, too. One minute you're rolling your eyes at the thought of your 4- or 5-year-old in some miniature graduation outfit, and the next minute you're ugly crying like you've just re-lived the series finale of Friends, wiping your snot on the poor, unsuspecting and fellow emotionally distraught parent sitting next to you.
I'm here for you, dear reader. Because you're about to embark on an overwhelming moment of pure emotional terrorism the likes of which you've never seen. Let me walk you through with some helpful hints. (Also I need y'all to hold my hand because my daughter's is coming up and I need to be sedated.)
Don't Overthink It
Is a preschool graduation a particularly prestigious accomplishment? Not really, right? Yeah, your child has developed a lot over the course of their preschool "career," and that's cool, but it's not like they spent hours studying the best way to build with blocks or anything. It wasn't up in the air as to whether or not they would have the opportunity to walk. So some people get annoyed or even miffed about these ceremonies. Honestly though? Get over your damn selves, people. It's not meant to be an accomplishment, it's meant to be nice. Just roll with it.
Don't Try To Be Cool About It
I feel like there are some people out there who don't want it to look as thought parenthood has changed them at all, or in any way made them "uncool," so they'll be dismissive of anything parenting related.
"Ugh. Playdates? Boring. I have nothing in common with other moms."
"Paw Patrol? I don't think so. I've introduced my kid to French New Wave and now he begs me to watch Vivre sa vie."
And I'm saying this without judgment, because I'll fully admit to falling into this mode from time to time. But here's the thing: preschool graduations are cutesy and schmaltzy and precious and uncool and you will get emotional about it. Don't fight it, because you'll fail every single time. Why? Well, because like it or not everyone is uncool for their kids. Give in. Enjoy it.
Do Not Spend The Night Before Looking At Baby Pictures
Just trust me on this one. It will absolutely wreck you and make the ensuing ceremony that much more emotional. Like, you think it's going to be a cute idea — to see how much they've grown up the day before a big milestone — but it's actually just going to mean you'll be hearing the song "Sunrise, Sunset" from Fiddler on the Roof playing in the back of your head every time you look at your kid for about a week. It's rough.
Check On Your Digital Storage Space
This is generally a good thing to check on before any event where you expect to be taking a lot of pictures. (Fun fact: as soon as I went into labor the firs thing my husband did, at 3 a.m., was clear our camera's memory card so we'd be sure to get all the pictures we wanted, which was at once a ridiculous and brilliant thing to do.)
Nothing's worse than getting excited to film your little baby's solo and being told your storage is full, and then frantically deleting 1,000 pictures of you in a dressing room that you sent to your friend the last time you went to the mall in a desperate attempt to make room.
Don't Wear Eye Makeup
You will look like a feisty but emotionally wrecked raccoon who somehow made their way into the audience.
Get There Early
Because some of those 4- and 5-year-old kids roll deep. There was one kid at my son's graduation who, I swear to God, must have been holding his family reunion at the same time. The full-on entourages that will show up at these things is dizzying and distant-cousin Mortimer or whoever will have no qualms taking a prime seat that should be yours. Like, I'm generally not a cutthroat person at all, but you kind of have to be if you want a good seat at school events.
It doesn't matter if you consider yourself a relatively stoic person. It doesn't matter if you're "not a crier," or whatever. It doesn't matter. You're going to cry. Or the person next to you will cry. So trust me and, you know, just bring some tissues. Otherwise you're going to be searching your bag for scraps of old napkins and CVS receipts to blow your nose with when you start ugly crying when they sing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."
Write Off The Rest Of The Day (Emotionally)
Showing pictures of the ceremony to your co-workers, thinking back on a particularly cute or funny moment or just sort of holding back tears as you realize your little baby is growing up, just be prepared for this event to occupy basically all your brain space for the rest of the day. If it doesn't, cool, but there's a very good chance it will and it's best to be prepared.
Embrace The Feels
I'm looking at you again, "I'm too cool for this" parents. Give in to the tumultuous sea of emotion as each wave crashes against you in an unrelenting bombardment of feelings. Drown in them. Sink completely. What is dead may never die.
Be Prepared For Your Kid To Wear That Hat For The Rest Of The Summer
It's mostly cute but a little bit annoying because you'll be kicking around an increasingly tatty paper cap and every time you try to throw it away they'll scream at you and fish it out of the garbage. (In my experience the fervor dies down by kindergarten.)
Don't Watch 'Toy Story 3' For A While
Under normal circumstances this one is tough, but after a pre-k graduation it will actually destroy you. You've been warned.