At the end of July, I took the Little Chap to his “new” day nursery for his Graduation from pre-school, a day to be marked with ceremony and, to our mutual delight, cake. It seemed a little incongruous that he should be graduating already, for two reasons. First, the Little Chap will continue to attend the same pre-school class until he leaves at the end of August, as I need the continued childcare while I work through the school holidays. Second, he continues “pre-school” in September, when he will attend the nursery class at our local prep.
It was a milestone nonetheless, and one I think he was more aware of than those that have gone before. He was un-phased by the whole event this time. Unlike his previous star turn in the nativity performance at his “old” nursery, when they cast the Little Chap in the role of Joseph – at the end of just a few weeks in his new pre-school class/room where, at the time, he only attended on Wednesdays. Poor little Mary was very nearly a single mum as he was so confused to be returning to nursery the day after his usual visit, and to see Mummy, his grandmother and cousin, not to mention all the other parents, overwhelmed didn’t cover it!
Preparation is clearly the key here, as the staff started rehearsing the children in May. So this time, the Little Chap was no longer confused by attending nursery on a Friday (his usual days being Tues – Thurs), or confused by the large number of parents in the nursery when we arrived. Nor did he hesitate in leaving me at the door to join his classmates in readying themselves for their performance. I know all parents say this but it hit me again that day how fast he is growing up. It was also of course, a proud moment for me, as together with the other parents we watched him and the rest of the class perform eagerly the songs and lines they have been practising for so long!
We watched them sing and act out the abridged version of “Sleeping Beauty.” They sang “The Farewell Song,” signed as they sang the story of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” and sang, “It’s a Small World,” a song in three different languages. They finished off their singing and performing with a graduation ceremony and we gave them a minute or two to put their personalised graduation caps on (made in the preceding weeks at pre-school)! As the Head of Pre-School called their names, they walked up to shake hands with her and collect their scrolls, a graduation certificate neatly tied with red ribbon!
The nursery staff put on party games for the children, food and drink for all and for the parents there was also an on-screen preview of the Graduation Book that every child will receive as a memento of their time at the nursery. This, the brain child of parents of one of the children in his class, will serve as a pictorial reminder of his friends and key workers, as well as giving us parents the benefit of each other’s contact details for play dates etc. Parents and staff have been busily compiling photos, funny quotes and information about the little ones to fill its pages and I am looking forward to receiving our copy. I also hope it will play a beneficial role in easing the Little Chap and his friends through this first big transition in their short lives.
The “after show party” was a good opportunity for me, as a relatively “new” mum at the nursery, to meet some of the other parents – particularly one of the mums whose son, A, has become the Little Chap’s new best friend. It seems the feeling is mutual. Watching the two little chums standing next to each other “on stage,” rushing off to play games in the garden together when it was all over, and giving each other comradely hugs goodbye was a window into a part of my son’s life I don’t normally get to see. All I hear is the commentary of another day spent in the construction corner with A, building their latest creations – from mouse houses to millennium falcons and star fighters and I only see his crushing disappointment when he realises the next day won’t be spent in his friend’s company as I take him home at the end of the week. A is usually collected by his father before I arrive, so I’ve never seen them together and it was heart warming to watch.
The afternoon was a huge success. The months of preparation by staff and children had paid off – they did themselves proud. The afternoon was about recognising the level of achievement reached by the children since joining the nursery. It has helped the Little Chap to understand he will now move on to the next stage in his life and with that will have to say goodbye to familiar faces, places and routines. As the Head of Pre-School said, the children have grown from the babies who arrived (he was not quite 11 months at his first visit) to the confident, independent children who will be leaving this summer.
As we reach this next milestone on the journey through his childhood, I will hold on tight to my memories of my calm, self-assured little boy on his graduation day. Of him standing obediently in his place on stage, his beautiful brown eyes scanning the room until they found mine, when he calmly gave me a big “thumbs up” and grinned broadly at me. There was a certain pride evident, an understanding that he was doing something good, something big, important. It brought a tear to my eye, but filled my heart fit to burst.
Congratulations my Little Chap – you make me very proud!