Graduation and Heartache

As I walked into K-Man’s pre-school class on the day of his graduation, I was surprisingly overwhelmed with a flood of emotions and I found myself fighting back an onrush of tears. The kid is growing up. Getting older. And there’s simply no denying it.

One of the all-time favorite parenting clichés that we are told over and over (and that we then repeat to others over and over) is, “Don’t blink. It goes so fast.” My brother always talks about raising kids as being comprised of the longest days and shortest years. How is it that we all but beg for the days to come to a close (at 11:00 in the morning!) because our kids are running circles around us, and yet, we find ourselves wondering where the last (nearly) six years went?

As I stood in the doorway of his classroom – that’s right, I couldn’t even bring myself to walk all the way in – I looked at his teachers, his friends and at him and I wondered if this was not only the end of his pre-school experience, but, in some way, also the beginning of the end of naïveté. The beginning of the end of that bliss that comes with youth, where forgiveness is instant and the mythical “all” is truly forgotten. And for that moment, I felt sad for K-Man.

“Real school” (defined, I think, by actually having to get your kid on site at a certain time) is a rite of passage for both kids and parents. We live a few houses from the school K-Man will attend and he’s been enthusiastically looking forward to his attendance at this school for the last year (if for no other reason than the days of forced “rest time” will be over). This rite of passage, however, comes with many bumps and heartache, and, sadly, they may already be beginning.

Almost as clichéd as the “don’t blink” advice is the “children’s laughter” answer to the question, “what is your favorite sound?” The truth is, however, there really is nothing quite like watching your own kid experience unbridled joy. Conversely, it’s heartbreaking as he experiences hurt feelings. As K-Man and his best friend start the next journey of their academic lives, they are, for the first time, disagreeing about things and, more often than not, going their separate ways. And to know these two little guys and how attached they’ve been at the hip for the last two years is to know how truly painful this must be for both of them.

I understand that it happens. My best friend and I were inseparable in elementary school. We wrote songs, movies and plays together. We were on teams together. I’m not sure there were any days for those five or six years that we didn’t spend some time together. It didn’t really stick after that. Different skills and interests (he became an unbelievable guitar player and I gravitated towards soccer) brought new and different friends and by the time we got to high school, we barely ever saw each other.

My experiences with my friend have always been in the back of my head as I watched K-Man and his buddy, but these two guys seemed different. The way they spoke to each other and the way they resolved their own conflicts just seemed…different. The fact that they weren’t sitting next to each other at the graduation (as assigned by their teachers) was perhaps foreboding. Where it took Scott and me years to pull away from each other, in this media-driven age where things happen at warp speed, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that it may only have taken K and his buddy two years.

I don’t know what the future holds for K-Man and his friend. What I do know, however, is that K-Man will have many more graduations in his future – from elementary school, middle school, high school, college and even more. (Or yes, if that child actor thing works out, maybe less.) What I do know is that there will be more friends and more heartache. In the meantime, we celebrate the achievement of K-Man’s first graduation…and do our best to help him understand the potholes of growing up.

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