Graduation Day!

In honor of our son Dash’s graduation today—from the Child Development Center at George Mason University—I wrote a short essay at SleuthSayers about my evolution from looking askance at such celebrations to celebrating them as important milestones. Check out that post here.

Additionally, here are my remarks from the ceremony itself—first time I’ve been a graduation speaker and a real honor to be included in the program:

Whatever our names are in the real world, the kids at the CDC know us differently.

  • Dash’s Dad, where are you and Dash going this afternoon?
  • Dash’s Dad, can Dash come over to my house to play?
  • Dash’s Dad, look at the Lego I built!

It’s a good identity to have, a good place to be.

We were so certain that we wanted Dash to attend the CDC that we filled out the application form a couple of months before he was even born. With both sets of grandparents in the audience, this may be a dangerous thing to admit, but the CDC knew Dash’s name before anyone in our family did. We hesitated, but it’s a sacrifice we’re glad we made because he was still number 7 on the wait list when it came time to enroll him. We feel lucky he ultimately made it into the classroom, and we couldn’t be happier with what these last three and a half years have meant to him—and to us.

A lot of those experiences have related to learning. Dash counted to 100 at dinner last week (with a few hints), but he’s also used to counting in Spanish—and in Chinese. I remember the drive home one afternoon when he started telling me all about the bones in his leg, including the names of those bones, and I asked where he learned all that. “Oh, Ms. Jessica told us,” he explained. “She’s the knowingest person in the world.” Then there was the day Dash held up a dollar bill and explained that George Washington had died of a sort throat. “Oh, buddy, I don’t think so,” I told him. “I mean, a sore throat won’t….” But he was insistent. Then I looked it up.

I think I let him keep that dollar.

But learning isn’t just knowledge.

Ms. Suzanne, Ms. Dixie, and Ms. Sandra and their teams have been more than just teachers to Dash, and I know that the same is true for the kids who’ve gone through Ms. Dorothea’s class and then to Ms. Pleasure and Ms. Rina (before Ms. Courtney stepped in), and now Ms. Jen along with everyone who’s worked in those classrooms. Those folks and Ms. Karen and Ms. Erin, and over these years, Ms. Tina, Ms. Ursula, and now Ms. Shira—on the average weekday, they spend as much or often even more time with our children than we do.

I think about that often.

Ms. Sandra sent us all some pictures a few weeks back, a treasure trove of photos spanning the last year for the Froggies—a chance to see some of the things we might have missed, and I know we’ve got a slide show ahead today as well. Ms. Sandra told me later how amazing it was to watch the transformation, see how much these kids have grown—a real joy.

I agree, but I need to add something to what Ms. Sandra said. It’s also a joy for us parents to see how much all of y’all have encouraged our kids to grow into the amazing little men and women that they have become: curious and confident and kind, well-rounded, warm-hearted, and best of all happy—happy in their worlds, happy with themselves.

Finally, one last, maybe most important thing. Alongside all they’ve learned under the guidance of the teachers and staff, Dash and his friends have also learned from one another. Like most parents here, Tara and I wish that Dash could carry his whole class with him to kindergarten this fall, because these kids have become not just friends but family—and I mean that almost literally, since Dash has apparently been married at least twice over these last few years. One afternoon he matter of factly announced, “I married Caroline today” (a ceremony followed the next week with flowers, as I recall), and then another time—and apologies to Caroline’s family here—“Well, I’m married to Kylie now.”

As these relationships have formed and grown and shifted, the kids have learned the give and take of friendship, how to share, and how to support and celebrate one another.

Needless to say, the best celebrations center on cake, and I understand we’ve got two of them lined up for later this afternoon.

Dash eats his cake icing first—sometimes icing only—but whether you follow his lead or not, I’m gonna ask one thing. As you’re enjoying your cake later—this is for the adults as well as the kids—stop and look around and say thank you.

Icing first or not, today and these last few years—it doesn’t get much sweeter than this.

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