Don't You Dare Roll Your Eyes at Kindergarten Graduation

One dad's emotional response to this rite of passage.

— -- Well, it’s that time of year, again!

All across this great big land, lots of parents will soon be packing themselves into sweltering school gyms or overly air-conditioned auditoriums for what amounts to one of the greatest nights in the history of the world.

It’s kindergarten graduation time!

Wait a second. Don’t you dare roll your eyes, you terribly jaded-by-life killjoy! This is serious stuff we’re talking about here. Kindergarten graduations are nothing to smirk at.

If you think throwing a big pomp-and-circumstance pseudo-official shindig for 6-year-olds’ “graduating” from nine months of crayons and rubber cement boogers is overkill, well … I feel bad for you. But you know what? I’m not giving up on you either.

Let me explain it from where I stand, through a dad’s eyes, OK? Then you make up your mind, Capt. Iceberg.

See, I love a good K.G. (that’s what we call kindergarten graduations in the parenting biz, greenhorn). They’re the best nights ever. Hell, they usually involve ice cream in some capacity or another, so that right there ought to prove my point right off the bat.

But even so, ice cream aside, there’s still so much more to it than a lot of people seem to get.

First off, when it’s your own little guy or gal up there singing “This Summer I Will Chase a Frog” and “Play Computer Games for Hours” with their classmates, so perfectly out of tune, you’re going to lose your s---.

You’re gonna cry.

Like a big fat baby.

Or else you’re gonna POP! trying to hold back the tears, tough guy.

But why hold back at all? And even if it’s not your own kid, isn’t there something kind of humanly cool about seeing someone else tearing up over theirs?

Look — I’m 44, dude, and I can bite my lip with the best of ’em. But when I watched my daughter Violet up on that K.G. stage last year, as her whole class played bells and tambourines and triangles and maracas all at once in what was nothing short of the most bewildering cacophony of music ever played, I straight up lost it.

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You should have seen me. Oh god, all the snot; I was a blubbering mess. I held out for a good two minutes though, so there is that. But in the end, c’mon. That was my little girl up there.

Still, even if it wasn’t, these were all somebody’s cute kids all decked out in button-up shirts and summer dresses. I have to cheer for them! I get all verklempt even thinking about them all now, a whole year later.

So when their music teacher, Miss D’Notes, counted them in and hit those first familiar notes of “Everything We Learned This Year We Have Forgotten Except for Lunch,” I began to quiver a little. Still, I was OK, I was steady as she goes.

But, then, it happened. Violet tapped her tapper to that triangle dangling on a string from her sweet and tender paw, and I let out some kind of guttural sigh that would have had you spinning around in your foldable metal chair to see what the heck was happening behind you.

And that, my friend, is the precise moment when you would have seen a very grown man balling.

Oh, the humanity of it all.

I was so in love at that very moment. These K.G. ceremonies are emotional for us moms and dads. And that’s the way it ought to be.

Truth is, we all need a big room we can gather in every now and then to just let pride and love run its course. We’re like those rattlesnake church people. We need to get together in order to understand that we’re not alone. We need to be proud of our kids together. And I’m pretty certain that we deserve to feel proud of ourselves together, too.

So this goes out to all of you: aunts, uncles, neighbors, grandparents, cousins, friends, it doesn’t matter who you are, you don’t need to be mom or dad to feel the magic that storms a room on kindergarten graduation night.

When a bunch of little kids are celebrating the fact that they’ve made it through their very first year of school together, there’s a place for all of us there. Because if you have any kind of connection to one of those kids up there — no matter how slight that connection may be — you’re a pretty lucky human.

And even if your role in the life of that child might seem small to you, think again. I promise you that it isn’t as small as you think.

So if over the next few weeks you find yourself wondering what the point of all this kindergarten graduation hoopla is, let’s go with this:

Kindergarten graduations are a just big old room full of happiness and hope.

And that’s as damn good an excuse as any you’ll ever have to cry, man. To cry that happy cry of yours while you still can.