Pre-School Graduation Is Dumb Until Your Kid Graduates Pre-School

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shutterstock_101881144I’ve always thought that the only graduations that truly mattered were high school and college. All the little ones in between- pre-school, kindergarten, 5th or 6th grade, 8th grade- seemed to make the big ones somehow anti-climactic. How many times can a person perform the ritual of graduating without its meaning being lost or diminished? To me, it was on par with the participation trophy. Go big, or go home- why bother until it’s the real deal?


That said, last week, my son finished pre-school. Although he is still attending the same daycare and staying in his class the rest of the summer, the “academic” portion of this year is complete and he will begin kindergarten this fall. Our older child attended a different school for pre-K and they did not have a graduation ceremony so this was our first experience with it.


I was prepared to inwardly roll my eyes at pre-school graduation and think to myself “great, let’s celebrate passing Finger Painting 101 and no longer needing a nap”. That is, until we got the cute invitation home in our son’s backpack from daycare a few weeks ago. My knee-jerk cynicism was about to kick in when I briefly pictured his sweet teachers planning this little shindig to honor our son and his classmates. I felt a few strong feels but still thought it was something we could do without. After all, with our daughter’s broken arm and a slew of other family things going on, I had used up quite a lot of time off from work recently and wasn’t too eager to use more regardless of the reason. Even so, the invite was sweet and made me soften to the point of maybe not rolling my eyes whenever the topic was brought up.


Fast-forward to last week. My husband, daughter and I sat in the front row and waited for pre-school graduation to commence. I scanned through the program and checked the time, waiting impatiently. Although I was appreciative of his teacher’s efforts, I was still pretty firmly in the camp of “this is pointless”, until it happened. They cued up the Pomp and Circumstance and my sweet little boy and his classmates came in, single file. I was blithely watching at that point, filming with my phone, when suddenly, it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks- this was it. He wasn’t a baby anymore. In 13 years that will undoubtedly go by in a flash, we will be celebrating a graduation of a much larger caliber and a lot would be at stake but right now, our baby boy was just focusing extra hard on remembering where he was supposed to walk to next and scanning the big scary crowd for our familiar faces.



Can you blame me for crying?


I became totally overwhelmed and unleashed The Ugly Cry right then and there. Watching the video now, I can tell my hand was shaking and I can hear myself quietly swallowing back sobs while my daughter sweetly asks if I’m alright. Seeing him trying so hard and looking so proud of himself nearly did me in and I began to realize that this was a milestone worthy of ceremony and celebration, despite my initial thoughts. Our baby was no longer a baby and with his hand-made construction paper graduation cap tilted just so, he was going to step over “the bridge” and become a big kindergartener. I could feel the last bit of cynicism leaving my body as he made his way to the front to get his little diploma. I barely held it together the rest of the ceremony and definitely drank a few glasses of wine that evening.


In the days after, I felt intensely grateful thinking about his pre-school experience. For all the trouble his teachers went to in organizing the ceremony and everything they had done all year to teach our boy manners, the alphabet, how not to get pee on the toilet seat and how to be a good friend. It may not go on his college application but this was a big start heading toward a long period of learning and growing. Maybe pre-school graduation isn’t just a silly, Instagram-worthy, parent-pandering photo op. It is more of a beginning than an end, really- the end of the baby years and the beginning of the rest of their academic career. If that’s not worth celebrating, I’m not sure what else is.

(Image: Alexey Losevich/Shutterstock)


  1. jorgiemama

    June 28, 2014 at 9:26 am

    I felt the same way. Thought kindy grads were dumb. Until I went to my daughter’s last week where I bawled the whole time.

    • Valerie

      June 28, 2014 at 9:47 am

      You are not alone! I think every mom in ours was in tears and some of the dads were holding on for dear life. I left out the part about how they did a photo montage of the kids as babies up until now playing that country song “Let Them Be Little”. Even my husband was choking up and I have seen him cry twice in 12 years. Very emotional!!

    • jorgiemama

      June 28, 2014 at 11:58 am

      YES!! That ‘let them be little’ song was played during a montage for us too. Whoever wrote that wretched song clearly has no regard for the feelings of a mom. lol. Hit me in ALL THE FEELS!!

    • Valerie

      June 28, 2014 at 12:22 pm

      So many feels. And crying about the times where I DIDN’T let them sleep in the middle. Ughhhh the worst.

  2. momjones

    June 28, 2014 at 9:32 am

    As soon as you mentioned “Pomp and Circumstance” I started to cry. As the Senior Moderator, I presided over many high school graduations – always, as soon as they started to process in to this song, everyone would tear up. Be prepared for many more years of happy, warm, wonderful tears!

    • Valerie

      June 28, 2014 at 9:44 am

      Awwww. I know what you mean. It does always seem to make me well up and seeing my little guy shyly smiling and walking in while it swelled all around us? Done. Drowning in tears. Lol.

  3. NoMissCleo...JustMe

    June 28, 2014 at 9:40 am

    I’m the StuCo rep for my middle school and my duties involve putting on the 8th grade awards ceremony at the end of the year. This year was especially emotional because I had taught this particular group of kids for all three years they were at my school. The StuCo president’s mom and I had a big hug and tears about her daughter moving onto the high school…we teachers get attached to the little boogers.

    • Valerie

      June 28, 2014 at 9:45 am

      Yes, the teacher aspect is a big one that I hadn’t considered- its a big deal for them too!

    • NoMissCleo...JustMe

      June 28, 2014 at 11:22 am

      Watching the StuCo president run the ceremony, looking so beautiful and confident on the stage, I teared up remembering her as an awkward 6th grader, a goofy 7th grader and then the transition to powerful young lady. I unabashedly told her mother that I hope my daughter will turn out like hers. Any teacher worth their salt adopts their students each year as their own. I don’t say, “my students;” I call them, “my kids.” Because each year, they are…I worry about them, cheer their accomplishments and counsel them through tragedies. If you don’t love your students, it’s very hard to be effective in the classroom.

    • Valerie

      June 28, 2014 at 11:51 am

      You sound like a fabulous teacher! Your kids are very fortunate.

    • Spongeworthy

      June 28, 2014 at 9:55 am

      Every Senior Day game I’ve ever coached, I tear up. I remember when they were just scared little freshmen, and then in the blink of an eye, they’re the seniors and leaders of the team, ready to go out in the world. I learned to keep my sunglasses on during the intros.

    • momjones

      June 28, 2014 at 9:59 am

      Another one of my duties as Senior Moderator was to read the graduates’ names when they came up to receive their diplomas. Both of my daughters went to the high school where I taught – it was all I could do to keep from bursting into tears when I read their names. It was such a relief to sit in the audience when my son graduated!

    • Spongeworthy

      June 28, 2014 at 10:03 am

      Oh, I would have lost it if it was my own child!
      When we would have our senior banquets, I would always have to pause for a few deep breaths while making my speech about each of the graduating kids.

    • Valerie

      June 28, 2014 at 10:50 am

      I cry at every high school graduation I go to. It’s just so emotional to see kids becoming adults. A huge step.

    • 2Well

      June 28, 2014 at 2:23 pm

      My band director had to do all that about her daughter at our banquet. She’d known us since kindergarten because we went through school together, and she barely made it through the speech.

    • Valerie

      June 28, 2014 at 10:50 am

      Ugh, I would lose it if I had to read my own kid’s names! You are a strong woman, momjones!

    • momjones

      June 28, 2014 at 11:07 am

      It was more difficult for my oldest. At every practice, I would literally choke on her name, and the kids would all start laughing and then they would encourage me (especially the girl after her – and rightly so – she didn’t want me to mess up her name!). When I did it the night of graduation without a hitch, they all give me a big smile. The next year, when cmj graduated, no problems – and well, my second baby – and as she always says – “Uh, middle child!” 🙂

    • Valerie

      June 28, 2014 at 11:50 am

      That is so sweet. I feel like high school grad is one of those motherhood moments where you get a flash of The Reel in your mind- like in the movies, seeing all at once, the first time you laid eyes on them, their first laugh, riding a carousel, getting on the bus for the first time, going to the prom. Ugh, I’m gonna start crying again.

    • 2Well

      June 28, 2014 at 2:17 pm

      Why did they not get someone else to do that? My mom is the ultimate volunteer at school functions. She will scrounge up enough volunteers so the parents of seniors (and currently 8th graders because of her middle schooler) can watch their kids the last game, competition or whatever. I’m pretty sure she and another woman volunteered for the band long after I and that woman’s daughters graduated.

    • momjones

      June 28, 2014 at 4:57 pm

      Besides being a full time teacher at the school, I also held the position of Senior Moderator (which was extra pay). Reading the names at the graduation ceremony was part of the job description at the time. Actually I had the best seat in the house, and my girls didn’t mind the extra big smile I could give them as they received their diploma from the Principal of the school. Anyway, they were used to “sharing” me with thousands of high school kids since infancy 🙂

  4. ChelseaBFH

    June 28, 2014 at 9:51 am

    I think graduations are appropriate whenever you’re moving onto a different school. I remember being really jealous of my cousins because they got a 5th grade graduation (the middle school was separate from the elementary school), while I had to wait for 8th grade to graduate from my school. I just went to my cousin’s daughter’s Pre-K graduation a few weeks ago and it was adorable, and a great way for them to feel grown up and mark their first big school-related accomplishment!

  5. Spongeworthy

    June 28, 2014 at 9:52 am

    Aw Valerie, this is so sweet! My guy isn’t old enough for this yet, but we went to my niece’s pre-k graduation a few years ago. I had just had my son like a month before, so I was still a bit hormonal. I thought it was kind of silly, but as soon as all the little ones started walking down the aisle in their little caps and gowns, I felt all the feelings! I was tearing up over kids I didn’t even know. When my niece came out, forget about it.
    Also, it was so cute watching how each kid handled walking down the aisle. Some were super serious, some ran down the aisle to get it over with, and some, like my niece, strutted like it was a catwalk. Too funny!

    • Valerie

      June 28, 2014 at 10:48 am

      Thank you!!! Yes, I was annoyed with myself crying at parts of the picture montage, like, “THESE AREN’T EVEN MY KIDS!” Lol. And we had a few who walking in laughing, a few almost in tears and one little girl was doing a pageant wave. It was basically 50 shades of adorable.

  6. jendra_berri

    June 28, 2014 at 10:40 am

    That is a lot of graduations! When does preschool start? For the most part I don’t know anyone who does that. We have jr. kindergarten and sr. kindergarten here in Ontario, and it recently became full day all week. To enter JK you have to turn 4 by Dec. 31. And JK is not mandatory. So some kids, like I was, are 3 when they begin. I’m assuming preschool is like jr. kindergarten that you have to pay for yourself? Is that right?
    They may do grads for SK now, but then there is grade 8 grad and then grade 12 and that’s it. Not a lot of graduations at all.

    • CW

      June 28, 2014 at 12:43 pm

      Special ed preschool is free, and some states have universal free public preschool. Our district has 3 elementary schools that offer free preschool to students who live within those zones (they serve primarily low-income families, many of whom are recent immigrants). Otherwise, parents pay for preschool and the choices are either co-ops that require a parent to volunteer at least one day/week or $1000+ per month full-time programs aimed at being a daycare alternative.

    • jendra_berri

      June 28, 2014 at 2:11 pm

      So what age range is preschool?

    • NoMissCleo...JustMe

      June 28, 2014 at 3:09 pm

      Usually 3 and 4 year-olds.

    • AP

      June 28, 2014 at 4:18 pm

      An early childhood ed major friend of mine said preschool is “officially” defined as 2 years 9 months up to kindergarten (5 or 6, depending on local cutoff dates.)

      Different facilities have different policies, though.

    • NoMissCleo...JustMe

      June 28, 2014 at 4:34 pm

      Okay…so, 2 years 9 months is about three months off from my starting age and after of 4-year-old Pre-K, the kids would be going into kindergarten. Soooo….my answer is wrong how?

    • jendra_berri

      June 28, 2014 at 8:09 pm

      Okay, that’s good to know. So my son will be getting “preschool” when he goes to junior kindergarten when he’s 4. I’ve wondered about whether I needed to do anything about that when no one else I knew seemed to.
      Sometimes I need a translator to understand the differences in American things 🙂

    • NoMissCleo...JustMe

      June 28, 2014 at 8:29 pm

      Preschool is also called Pre-K, which is just like your junior kinder. We are sending our 3.5 year old to preschool next year three days a week because she was the only little girl at her sitter’s house and she definitely needs some girl socialization. Next year we will probably send her all five days, but even then…the day is significantly shorter (9-1 as opposed to an 8-3 kinder).

    • 2Well

      June 28, 2014 at 2:11 pm

      What CW said, plus there are some preschool classes in daycare. My sister’s was fairly inexpensive because it was a rural area. She went three mornings a week at age 3 despite my mom being a SAHM because there weren’t things like Mommy and Me for her to play with kids regularly. She did go to the elementary school’s preschool as well, but it was cheap.

  7. LadyClodia the Modest Rat

    June 28, 2014 at 10:40 am

    This is very sweet, Valerie.
    My oldest graduated preschool this year, and we did go to the ceremony. It wasn’t great, but we would have never not gone. There were about 45 kids, which is a lot, so it took quite awhile. Plus, I’d probably have better memories of it if he hadn’t had an allergic reaction at the reception, which clouded the whole night.

    • Valerie

      June 28, 2014 at 10:49 am

      Thank you! Yes, our class had 15 kids so it wasn’t long at all. Maybe an hour all together including the songs they sang and the photo montage.

      What is he allergic to?? How awful. 🙁

    • LadyClodia the Modest Rat

      June 28, 2014 at 11:17 am

      He’s allergic to peanuts and almonds, and he had a reaction to peanut butter in a no-bake oatmeal cookie. My husband wasn’t familiar with that kind of cookie and asked the helper at the cookie table what was in it, and she told him there was no peanut butter in it. When I got to them after collecting our things and saw our son eating the last bite I knew what it was. We didn’t have to use the EpiPen, but we did have to rush him home and get him Benedryl. Mostly his reaction involves him vomiting, so it’s not as severe as it could be, but this was the first reaction he’s had in 3 years, and it was pretty stressful. Not how I wanted to remember his preschool graduation. 🙁

    • Valerie

      June 28, 2014 at 11:52 am

      Oh God how awful!!! Poor kid, and poor parents! Glad all was well, though. Allergies are so scary!

  8. CW

    June 28, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Meh, I’ve had 3 kids who’ve now all finished preschool and I still think they’re lame. 8th grade graduation is different if it’s a private K-8 school and all the kids will be heading off to different high schools. But if it’s a feeder school to one high school, then nope.

  9. chickadee

    June 28, 2014 at 11:41 am

    Everyone here is making me feel soulless and crumpled. I was bored by my daughters’ kindergarten graduations and 4th grade graduations. The school got sensible regarding 8th grade, and simply had a massive awards and recognition ceremony. I don’t mind parties or recognition programs, but graduation processions for anyone but high-school grads seemed kind of silly to me.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 28, 2014 at 7:34 pm

      My son’s preschool “procession” was basically the kids walking into the gym twirling ribbons while wearing home-made mortarboard caps. Cute, and totally low-key. The teacher handed them each a certificate saying they had finished preschool. Cute, low-key, perfect.

      I would struggle to make it through anything more formal.

  10. waffre

    June 28, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    I actually remember my own preschool graduation. It was a Big Deal to me. I was very excited about being a “big kid” and going to “real” school the next year. I was in preschool for two years rather than just one so I think the idea of the transition was clearer to me than it is for some kids. I’m pretty sure my parents thought it was silly, but I was adorable in my little handmade graduation cap so they went with it. 😉

  11. AP

    June 28, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    I think most people who take issue with things like preschool graduation and 5th grade graduation, etc., tend to take issue with it if they’re formal and overblown. Celebrating milestones to make them special is important, but some people turn those things into an excuse for material excess.

    No four year old needs a $500 present, or a catering hall party, just for getting too old to keep going back to school. They deserve hugs and small tokens that help them feel grown up and ready for the next step in life.

  12. Ursi

    June 28, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    I think they’re silly but harmless. No point being too cynical about them.

    I actually thought middle school graduation was ridiculous.

  13. Megan Zander

    June 29, 2014 at 8:12 am

    No, not the Ugly Cry!

    • Valerie

      June 29, 2014 at 8:51 am

      Yes, we’ve discussed this. I do not cry prettily. Lol.

  14. sandra richter

    June 29, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    Sorry. It’s still stupid.

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