Sunday, June 24, 2012

In Defence of Celebrations.

It has become very popular to scorn the frequent celebrations visited upon children.  It's as contemptible as impersonal Christmas letters, which I have been known to defend

By celebrating everything, the argument goes, nothing and no one is special. 

While I cannot deny that in some quarters it may have gone too far (have you ever seen while channel surfing Party Mamas? Frightening.), I maintain that celebrations, especially at school, should be here to stay.

Preschool graduation, you say?  Utterly ridiculous.

Jackson went to a preschool that took preschool graduation kind of seriously. They had formal portraits with cap and gown. They rented a hall, served food and the kids crossed the floor on the stage, recited a nursery rhyme and shook hands with their teachers.  Some grandparents attended.  It was magical.

This preschool took itself very seriously when it came to preparing kids for kindergarten.  But not at the expense of good old fashioned fun and amazing kid-created craft projects.  So graduation did feel like something.

Especially for us.

Jackson started preschool when he was still 2 owing to his late November birthday.  He had only been speaking in sentences a few months.  He was shy. He was perfectly happy to go to preschool, as long as Mommy could stay (which I did, once a month as it was a parent participation preschool).

School always started with free time in the gym.  That was good for some of the kids who were excited and needed to burn some energy.  For those who didn't want to leave Mommy, it left a lot of time to contemplate. It was a little hard on us. And every one that had to watch. 
I tried staying for a few minutes to ease him into the situation, but whenever I left he would cling to my legs and cry.  The teachers had been to this rodeo and agreed I should do what I thought was best.  I could stay. Leave. Let him cry.  They knew every kid and every parent and every dynamic was unique.

I would not have left him to cry for two hours, but I realized quickly that I had only to be out of eye-shot when the tears ended.  This school had sixteen students and two teachers. One teacher was the main driver of the curriculum. The other was mostly on crowd control, wrangling the more rambunctious boys.  The amazing  crowd control teacher, a grandmother and experience educator Barb, would each morning, walk briskly into the gym take Jackson's hand (and another shy girl Morgan) giving neither a chance to hesitate or linger on good byes. She would walk around holding their hands until they felt comfortable.  Pure magic.

At Christmas Jackson asked if he could have a sleepover with Barb.

Over the next two years, the kids learned to clean up, speak and listen in circle time, write their names, take turns, line up and, on a good day, put their jackets and shoes on by themselves.
The biggest mountain to climb over two years of preschool was public speaking. Once a month, when a helping  parent was present, the child would be asked to select a nursery rhyme. The goal was to have the child say the rhyme by him or herself in front of the class.  At first Jackson would not even choose a nursery rhyme. He would point.  By the end of two years of preschool, at graduation he loudly and proudly recited Hickory Dickory Dock  to the assembled parents and grandparents.

It was a loud and proud moment for me too and one I am glad we celebrated.

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