My youngest child just finished kindergarten. It marks the last of the early childhood years for my family.
Preschool graduation last year was a major milestone, of course, but kids are still considered little even when they move up to kindergarten. Kindergartners still get snack time and nap or rest time at our school, and play is integrated into learning. They get show and tell days, dress-up days or pajama days, and special parties more frequently than the older grades. Kindergarten is the last stretch of the early childhood years.
One morning during the last week of kindergarten, while my throat tightened with emotion, my youngest daughter wore a red construction paper graduation hat and marched up to the stage in the gym when her name was called so she could collect the awards she earned this year. She took home a haul: Citizenship, Art, Academic Achievement, Reading, Outstanding Attendance.
She has learned to read this year. In addition to being read to by her father or me at night, she also now enjoys staying up a little later and reading to herself in her bed, just like her big sister has been doing for years.
This year, she learned that she likes math and is good at it. (Although her soon-to-be fifth-grader sister likes to point out that kindergarten math is easy and that she ain’t seen nothin’ yet.)
My youngest has learned to navigate the school building, confidently walking on her own to her classroom each morning. When I dropped her off at school after a dental appointment this spring, she was ready to get to class and forgot to hug me before trotting off down the hall. She also knows how to buy her lunch, how to find the bathroom, and where the office is.
She’s learned to deal with peers – the good ones and the not so good ones – and I enjoy listening to her chat and negotiate with other kids. She’s good at staying calm and offering suggestions when other kids get bossy or melt down, and she is able to stand her ground if necessary.
In short, she’s learned how to be a big kid.
This fall, when the first day of the new school year dawns, she won’t gather with her class and teacher outside the school to walk in together as the kindergartners always do on the first few days. Instead, as a first grader, I’ll simply hug her goodbye on the sidewalk and she’ll walk into the building with her older sister. She knows what she’s doing now. She’s got this.
And so this truly marks the end of the early childhood years for my daughter, and for our entire family because she is our youngest. I don’t really feel sad about this. It just is what it is. Plus, I like all the things my big kids can do now. They read independently, are able to go on longer walks and hikes, make their own sandwiches and microwave their own burritos, play in the yard without me having to be out with them, and handle their own toileting and showering needs. I also love the deep conversations we can now have. They are a lot of fun and a lot less work than they used to be.
The early childhood years have been good, and I have many sweet memories from that time. But I’m continually amazed as I watch my children grow up. I don’t want the summer to pass too quickly, but when first grade comes around in August, my big kid will be ready.
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Tags: early childhood