It was a big day yesterday in the life of our eldest child, Isaac. After nearly four years at his nursery/pre-school – a period which has seen him take his first step, utter his first word and achieve many other firsts along life’s path – he ‘graduated’ from pre-school. In less than three weeks’ time he will – like thousands of other children up and down the country – instead start going to ‘big school’ (as he calls it).
In most respects it was a day of celebration. On a warm, sunny afternoon, the pre-school sports day was turned into the equivalent of an Olympic decathlon. Everyone got a medal. All the leavers received a certificate and a book in a special graduation ceremony. If it was an afternoon tinged with poignancy and sadness for the parents, for the kids it was nothing but fun as they ate and played and did all the things together that they have done for years now.
Isaac is not oblivious to what is happening. He is aware that he will not be returning to pre-school, and that none of the other kids with whom he has shared close to 80% of his life to date will be going to the same school as him. Close friendships with many of them (and with the staff) will be abruptly severed, in readiness for the formation of new bonds in September. But insofar that a 4½-year old can process the change logically, the upsides far outweigh the downsides in his mind.
Life will never quite be the same again, but Zac took it all in stride. No doubt he will miss his friends more in the coming weeks as full realisation sets in, but equally he’s excited at the prospect of going to school. (He spent a week insisting on wearing his new uniform constantly.) In many ways, his parents were more upset at his departure than he was. But then children are much better at handling change than we are, aren’t they?
Isaac is ready for the next phase of life’s big adventure (probably more so than Heather and I). Onwards and upwards. New worlds to explore.
It must be fun being that age. Every change or discovery is greeted with unbridled optimism, unfettered by worry, fear of failure or the feeling that you’re already past the peak and are heading inexorably downhill, weeping because there are no more worlds to conquer (as was famously said about Alexander the Great). Friendships are made rather than lost and experiences gathered rather than forgotten, all with a view to the future rather than reminiscences of the past.
I’m not sure at what age we as adults lose that natural urge for growth and become increasingly concerned about our inevitable decline, but watching Isaac yesterday did make me think that maybe I need to follow his example rather than setting him one for once. There is so much more of the world to experience beyond the daily drudge of work, looking after children and more work – all the baggage that drags us down. What new worlds are still out there for me to conquer?