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Canalis: Kindergarten graduation matters to kids, parents

June 26, 2012|By John Canalis

I always found ceremonies celebrating graduations from anything other than high school, college or graduate school somewhat silly.

Why trumpet the completion of just one grade when there are so many more to finish? Isn't this what's wrong with our trophy-for-everyone culture?

How wrong I was.

Recently, I attended my daughter's kindergarten graduation, which is technically called a promotion ceremony, and learned the power of such made-for-family moments.

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I realized that such ceremonies are not only fun for kids and moving for parents, they are also a strong reminder of the importance of public education, recognition for the work our teachers do all year long and a reminder that it's important to take time out and recognize your kids' achievements.

In our tiny school auditorium, my daughter stood, somehow taller than most, flanking the lineup of her school's "kinders." Her classmates and teachers read prepared statements about the magic of their too-short school year.

Diversity was the theme. Then they sang "It's a Small World" and "What a Wonderful World." They performed Latin-American and Asian dance numbers, my blond daughter in her yellow dress towering over her dance partner, a cute boy with black bangs she's known since preschool. (I secretly wondered whether one day he'd catch up to her in height.)

While they sang, I could hear her voice in the chorus, distinctly off-pitch — a trait my little one unfortunately inherited from my side of the family.

She had some trouble keeping still, swaying and dancing, while the rest of the kids dutifully stayed still during the singing numbers, the parental paparazzi filming every moment on their phones.

More built-for-parents' moments followed. The kids rushed their teacher for hugs and pictures. Parents whom we never knew in September congratulated us like the oldest of friends.

We thanked our overwhelmed kindergarten teacher, Mrs. A., whose initial is also the grade I'd give her for her work in the classroom, one made more crowded this year by spending cuts.

I felt part of the school community and my neighborhood in ways that I never did before. City halls may get most of the attention, but schools really are the heart of any community.

My experience isn't unique; in fact, it's probably somewhat universal for those of us blessed with children. And I know there's nothing more cliche than writing about how parenthood accelerates the passage of time.

But in all honesty, it seems impossible that I am now the father of a first-grader. I've worked so much and so hard since the day she was born six years ago that I know I've missed more moments than I should have.

That is why these little kindergarten graduations matter so much. They force us to stay still, stop checking our email for an hour and focus on what really matters: kids.

JOHN CANALIS is the editor of Times Community News South. He can be reached at (714) 966-4607 and john.canalis@latimes.com.

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