jen groeber: mama art

4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.

Graduation-ing (It’s Not Gradual)

This week is graduation week and there is nothing gradual about it. It comes in like a lion and goes out like a lion, all roaring emotion and event after event. We’re a graduation-ing family; we’re practically professionals.

Dada, the professional graduation-er  June 2014

Dada, the professional graduation-er
June 2014

And when I say we’re professionals, I mean it… literally. As a high school teacher, I haven’t missed a May graduation since 1993 when I graduated from college. Not even when I was 9 ½ months pregnant, having postponed Cabot’s birth until after graduation week. I was so large and ungainly, people on stage would lurch a bit when I stood in the audience to sneak away to pee. I’d point approximately to my bladder and mouth “PEE. PEE-ING.” Everyone thought I’d have our baby right then and there, which would have been appropriate, in a way.

Last week, the first of graduations caught me by surprise. Driving up the pre-school driveway with a car blissfully empty, I was making lists in my head:

1. print teacher gifts

2. bags for teacher gifts

3. do we have babysitters lined up…

And then I pulled around the bend in the drive and saw this.

Pre-school graduation  June 2014

Pre-school graduation
June 2014

A row of nine empty little red chairs, waiting for two of our kids to “graduate” pre-school, and one other to move to her final year. I gasped. Then my face crumpled. I had entirely missed that this was happening to me, to us, to them. I mean, I knew the twins were graduating, but I’d forgotten that they were graduating.

With the oldest I always expect to cry. He is the first and constantly reminding me that they are moving on, that they are no longer babies. And with the last, well, who wouldn’t cry? When she’s through, we leave that milestone in the rearview mirror. But the middle two, we’re always pushing them forward, holding them behind. And they’re so secure in their two-ness, their camaraderie, that I don’t worry about them transitioning.

Pre-school graduation  June 2014

Pre-school graduation
June 2014

But here it was. They were leaving pre-school, absolutely ready for kindergarten, the great unknown. They know how to make friends, follow directions. Most days Mica can even manage his pants himself, although they’re generally on backwards, with the waistband sort of rolled and at least two inches of underwear showing. And Reid is majestic, reading and writing and telling stories. You will notice her, you can’t help but notice her. And if you don’t, she will hit you in the face or shove you to the ground. And then, then you will certainly notice her.

Last day of Kindergarten  June 2014

Last day of Kindergarten
June 2014

Our current kindergartener, Jasper, returned home from witnessing the 8th graders at his school graduate and he told us of their amazing talents in music, of the awards different kids won, including an art award. Mica piped up from the back seat, “Dat will be my awahd. I’ll win da aht awahd.” Absolute confidence. With confidence like that, who cares if your underwear shows and your pants are on backwards with the fly down? Because he doesn’t, and you won’t.

Our professional graduation-ing stature means we go to graduation events for my husband’s high school, and we go hard. We’ve had five babysitters in three weeks, most of them doing three nights of sitting each. In an effort to continue seeing our children, and to initiate them into the pomp of graduation, we’ve begun a tradition. Each major event we bring one child. I sit in the audience as prizes are awarded or baccalaureate speeches are read, as kids process or the honors jazz quartet jams. Then we take that one dressed up child to a restaurant and we talk to just them. One on one. They talk about this incessantly throughout the year, remembering their graduation “date” with Mama and Dada, pointing out their restaurant every time we pass.

image

Dada and Cabot
June 2014

This year Cabot attended the senior dinner, because all you have to do is look cute and hug people. She invented that. We took her out to Cheesecake Factory afterwards. What with the mirrors, the gluten-free menu and the TVs over the bar, she was in heaven.

Reid at Prize Night  June 2014

Reid at Prize Night
June 2014

Then Reid went to prize night (and a gourmet rum bar.) Prize night goes on forever, but there’s tons of clapping so she can say something loudly every two minutes. Thank god I put bike shorts under her dress, because she squirmed so much two faculty members complimented her on those bike shorts.

image

Mica at Baccalaureate
June 2014

Mica went to baccalaureate (and a Mexican restaurant) because I think he gets the celebration and solemnity of the event, the four speakers telling their stories, the two pieces of inspirational music. It’s short, sweet, and cerebral.

Jasper, dressed for graduation  June 2014

Jasper, dressed for graduation
June 2014

Lastly, Jasper went to graduation (and out for ice cream.) Because graduation is in the heat of the day and it goes on forever. No one else could survive it. And I think he gets it; his father’s big speech, the names being read off one at a time, the tears from parents as they watch their kids graduate.

And at each event, at least once, I feel the chokey voice and quiver chin fighting to take over my face. I stroke the backs of the boys’ necks where the short fuzzy hair grows. I pat the lightly padded arms of my girls and sniff their hair like a summer-day-baby-shampoo drug, like I can’t live without the smell of their child-heads filling my lungs.

image

Mama and Mica, holding on to the present
June 2014

I look around at the parents hiding behind cameras, and I see their slightly shell-shocked faces. How did this day come to pass? How, amidst the lists they have in their heads and the driving here and there, did they miss the row of red chairs in the courtyard, their children preparing to move on? How do we all?

Yesterday they bent to smell the tops of their childrens’ heads and today they fastened boutonnieres, reached up to straighten ties or replace a bobby pin.

Because it goes like that, graduation week. There’s nothing gradual about it.

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18 comments on “Graduation-ing (It’s Not Gradual)

  1. Burns the Fire
    June 11, 2014

    In the flurry of all these events and delectible kids, I don’t know who graduated, but I’m in it for the ride.

    • jgroeber
      June 11, 2014

      Neither do I. Ha! (Actually only the pre-schoolers graduated from pre-school and the husband’s school’s seniors graduated. But graduation does seem to be in the air…)

  2. kellylmckenzie
    June 11, 2014

    Oh it does gallop along doesn’t it? Nothing gradual about it at all. You reminded me of the time I took my then 3 and 4 year old to an award ceremony for my dad. They were the youngest ones there by a good 20 years and that fact didn’t escape the notice of many in the audience. I got frowns and looks of “really?!?” from most. However, they were good as gold. My 3 year old sat on my lap and my 4 year old held her hands in hers as she sat next to us. My only wish? That they remember it! Both have whispery memories of the afternoon. Ah well.

    • jgroeber
      June 11, 2014

      And that is why I blog folks. So that my kids might have more than whispery memories. Because what if they want to write a tell-all book about their messed up childhoods but they can’t remember the details?! (And so glad someone else appreciates how important it is to encourage our children to be still every once in awhile. Be still, be patient, be quiet, be respectful of this big moment in someone else’s life you don’t understand. Is that really too much to ask?! Sheesh.)

  3. Amy Reese
    June 11, 2014

    Jen, this is precious. And your photos are gorgeous. I love all your traditions and that each child feels it is their special time. It does zip along at a frightening pace.

    • jgroeber
      June 13, 2014

      At first I read “zipping along like a freight train” and I thought, “Yes, yes!” Which is also a frightening pace. Ha!

  4. Margie S
    June 12, 2014

    I love the family pomp and circumstance around the pomp and circumstance! I love your genuine appreciation for the yearly pomp and circumstance – a true educator! (Sadly, I was counting the minutes during my niece’s lovely graduation). And I love your special retreat with each child. One more thing, I agree, I do think we need to teach our children respect for someone else’s big moment, it is not always about them.

    • jgroeber
      June 13, 2014

      With respect for someone else’s big day comes empathy, which is such an end goal. This week we also went to a graduation for an urban charter school k-8 that occasionally sends their students through a prep program at my husband’s school. And as my daughter squirmed and grumped I literally hissed into her ear, “These kids might not have had any of the easy things you have, two parents fawning over you, a meal every time you’re hungry, a safe place to play outside, all the toys and clothes you could ever want. But someone loved them enough to send them here and then they worked their butts off. You will be still to show them that you respect all they’ve done and who they are.” And she was! Sometimes just putting it out there makes sense to kids.

  5. David Van Buren
    June 12, 2014

    Awesome as always, Jennifer. The last picture is just sublime. Go you.

    • jgroeber
      June 13, 2014

      Thank you. I bet you haven’t missed many graduations since you graduated from college! And that last pic is a wonder of helpful lighting, I’ll tell you. I’d just kissed Mica and then he moved to smile for Tim. Tim was like, “Ah, Jen. You moved.”

  6. Jenn Berney
    June 13, 2014

    OMG. Mica. Da aht awahd. The line about pants on backwards. That killed me.

    • jgroeber
      June 13, 2014

      I think your kids and my kids, especially Mica, could have a pretty awesome play date. Mica also likes to sport a backwards collared shirt, inside out, with the collar popped. And it actually works. Now that’s confidence.

      • Jenn Berney
        June 13, 2014

        I’ll pass that fashion tip along to Smoke, who is definitely a kindred spirit. He likes to pair cardigans and rain boots with shorts and he’s always had trouble saying R’s. (I’ve got R’s on my list of blog posts to write one of these days…)

        • jgroeber
          June 17, 2014

          Ha! Mica just found a hand-me-down pair of penny loafers. In the summer. With socks. And shorts. How I love our little fashionistas! (And the R’s. I have a sister who is hearing impaired so the missing R is near and dear to my heart. I may never speech-therapy Mica out of his.)

  7. Sarah Durkee
    June 13, 2014

    So many layers to my love of this one, Jen! As a teenager who graduated from this very school, spoke at that very baccalaureate service, my own proud mom in the heat in her folding chair :), and some of the faculty every bit as young as you and Tim with your young kids, but we didn’t yet fully understand what that meant. And of course I love it as a mom who will never forget the smell of the top of the preschool head. It’s absolutely beautiful that you make this time of year so special for each solo kid. You’re the bomb. xx

    • jgroeber
      June 17, 2014

      Yay! You made my day. I would give anything to have heard that baccalaureate speech! Any chance it’s floating around somewhere? I know you rocked it. And as you know, these kids here are amazing. So many great things to celebrate! I have to say, reading your love for your kids (and theirs for you) absolutely warms my heart.

  8. Pingback: Leaving the Nest, an Ode to Pre-School | jen groeber: mama art

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This entry was posted on June 11, 2014 by in The Children, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , .

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