Tonight you graduated from your little school. The first school you ever attended. The first place I ever "left you" to be with others, to be on your own, to start your own little life. You were 3 then, just turned, when you learned what a "cubby" was and which one would be yours. I remember being so worried, on that first day, and then you walked right over and, without hesitation, pushed your little soccer-themed lunch box into that little square, right where the teacher had shown you just a couple of days before when you had met her.
After the first couple of days you had a little setback. The teachers said it was normal. They said most kids reacted like that after the novelty of the first day wore off. But when I left you, each morning, for a handful of mornings, and you cried...no, you sobbed...and clung to me, your little fingers clenched into my shoulders, I cried too--probably more than you did.
Your first year, you took to napping on the little cot faster than I ever believed you would. The teacher said she loved watching you, because you slept like a baby: your arms and hands tucked neatly beneath your body, your knees scrunched up into your belly, your little tush in the air. When she told me, I had to laugh...that was how you always slept as a baby. And even now, on rare mornings when you are really sound asleep, I enter your room to find you still sleeping like that, in your infant position. You were "a leader," your first teacher said. She said all the kids liked you. You were bright and funny and loud.
And then your next year, you got a little too bright and too funny and too loud. It was a tough year for us, because we started to see glimpses: maybe you were not going to be the perfect student Mommy and Daddy had envisioned. Maybe, instead, you were going to be like Mommy and Daddy: questioning, opinionated, easily excited, and loving the attention. That was the year you forged your first tight friendship with another boy, your buddy who became infamous around these parts, your nearly-literal partner in crime. You will probably graduate from college, and we will still remember the name "CJ." Just in case, we took video of him tonight, at the graduation ceremony, and oddly enough, I looked at CJ with tenderness: this was the my son's first best friend.
This year, you went on to the "Big Kid Class." You had homework. You had strict teachers. You had yellow cards. Oh, yes, your VPK year nearly turned into "The Year of the Yellow Card." I am embarrassed to admit that the mood of our home became nearly completely dependent upon the color card you received in school each day. Somewhere along the line, after many conversations between your daddy and myself, great advice from your teacher, and many lost nights of sleep (mine, primarily...you know your dad never stresses), we sorta figured you out and learned how to encourage you while still disciplining you. And either it all worked, or you just matured a little, because green cards became the norm and yellow ones rarely appeared anymore. You went on to learn all of your letters and numbers and how to spell your whole name. You learned 24 of the 26 phonetic sounds. You came home talking about constellations. You taught us songs. You proudly displayed your 10 new sight words on your bedroom door.
Tonight, we watched you and all your classmates walk in wearing little red caps and gowns. Your 2011 tassel dangled in your face as you turned around to look back at us and wave one more time before going up on stage. When they called your name and you walked up to your teachers to receive your diploma (a blank rolled up piece of paper that most of you chose to use as telescopes for the remainder of the ceremony), they announced "When Ben grows up, he wants to be a pilot, but he doesn't want to work in the summers." A big, proud grin stretched across your face. You are, it appears, going to be like your mom and dad: you want to have your cake and eat it too.
I cried tonight. I couldn't believe that you were the same little boy we had welcomed into this world only five and a half years ago. I couldn't believe that I hadn't noticed how you had caught up to the rest of the kids, and you were no longer the shortest. I couldn't believe you were going to be a kindergartner. I couldn't believe it was You: the little baby we had wanted so badly, for whom we had waited so long.
Congratulations, Ben. We know it's "just preschool," but we couldn't be prouder. We love you.
Mama and Daddy