Published in the Nashville Eye Column of The Tennessean on June 15, 1992.
Well, this is it – the moment I haven’t been waiting for. To be truthful, I have actually dreaded it. I wish I could put it off a little longer, or somehow freeze this moment in time so I would never have to fact it. But realistically, I know that it is all part of growing up, and unfortunately, I don’t have a choice.
The day has come for my nearly 5-year-old son’s “preschool graduation”- a ceremony celebrating the fact that he and a group of other youngsters from a day care program at church are now ready for kindergarten in the fall,
I find my seat along with the other parents. They seem to be taking it so much better than me. Grandparents are smiling, cameras are flashing. Everyone is acting as if it is such a festive occasion. Why can’t I?
I sit here with tears in my eyes, bracing myself for this huge step forward. I mutter those familiar words, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” The words are from The Little Engine That Could, one or Andrew’s favorite stories.
Silently, I wonder if my son will ever want to hear that story again. Will we still get to watch Sesame Street together? Who will tuck in his shirt? Who will be there to laugh at his jokes that make no sense whatsoever? Who will keep his hair combed? And who will remind him to use his manners?
How will Andrew be able to handle life without me? Or maybe the question should be, “How will I handle life without him?”
He seems ready for the challenge, excited about the prospects of kindergarten. He knows his full name, address and phone number. He can count and go to the bathroom alone. He still can’t tie his shoes, but I blame his Ninja Turtle tennis shoes with the Velcro straps for that.
But what about me? It is going to be so quiet around my house. What will I do with my time? Who will sing the theme song of The Jetsons with me? Who will laugh at my jokes that make no sense whatsoever? Who will mess up my hair and remind me to use my manners?
The tears are flowing freely now.
I watch as the “graduates” bound down the aisle. Some are skipping, some waving. A few are holding hands, and the rest are arguing with the person behind them.
I noticed that none of them are crying. They are all so excited and proud; it never occurs to any of then that a portion of their young lives is coming to an end. They don’t need a timeout to cherish the moment; they simply give it everything they’ve got and enjoy it.
The teachers lead the graduates as they sing songs, say their ABC’s and recite a poem in unison. They are grinning from ear to ear; their lines are loud and well-rehearsed; their twinkling eyes are full of promise.
I can’t help but smile as I watch the future leaders of our country wiggle about in their tiny caps and gowns. I wipe away my tears and allow myself to enjoy the rest of the service.
Andrew crosses the stage when his name is called and is presented with his “diploma” and small Bible, both of which will carry him a long way in this life.
Before I know it, my son’s preschool graduation ceremony is over. I hug him and tell him I love him. He responds by wanting to chase a little red-headed girl around the room.
And because the time has come, I slowly let him go.
As we make our way to the car, the reality sets in. My little boy is growing up. In many ways, I guess I am too.
(Grimes, of Antioch, is a dispatcher for the Metro Police Department.)