My baby graduated. And I am so proud.
In the weeks leading up to his preschool’s graduation ceremony, he and his classmates worked hard on practicing their speeches. (“Speech” being defined loosely here.) I asked him several times to deliver the speech at home, always hearing:
“Hi, my name is Logan, and when I want to grow up, I want to be Zero.”
Zero is the name of video game character that Logan currently loves, a sidekick on MegaMan X (at least, as far as I can tell. I’m not much of a gamer, if you couldn’t tell.) I was baffled as to why Logan gave this as his answer.
Then a thought struck me. “Logan,” I said. “When people talk about what they want to be when they grow up, that’s totally different from what they want to be for Halloween.”
I explained as carefully as I could about jobs and professions and careers and costumes and trick or treating. Now, I said, what do you think you want to do for a job when you grow up?
“Zero,” he said.
I felt flustered. You can’t be a video game character! I wanted to scream. “But Zero’s not real,” I said, my voice faltering slightly. “Do you know the difference between real and made-up?”
I stumbled my way through an explanation of the differences between real-life and make-believe, making stellar arguments such as “real-life is real.”
“And even if he were, he’s a person,” I continued. “You can’t be a specific person when you grow up — you need to pick a job. Not somebody’s name.”
Logan thought about that. I put the dish I was drying down on the counter and waited for his response. When it didn’t come, I continued. “For example, could Sadie grow up to be Miss Amy?” I asked.
“Yes,” Logan immediately said.
I felt like banging my head against a wall. How does he not get this? How do I explain it?
“No,” I said, trying vainly to keep my voice even. “Miss Amy is her own person. Sadie could grow up and be a teacher LIKE Miss Amy, but she can never BE Miss Amy.”
“But … she’s real.”
Well, at least I understood where he was coming from with this one.
I persisted a while longer, eventually dropping it as Logan finished his snack and wandered away, off to the living room to his cars or his new favorite book, an encyclopedia of Capcom video game characters. He can’t say he wants to be Zero at graduation, I thought, panicked. Does he really want to be a video game guy? Does he really not understand the difference between reality and fantasy?
I often wonder if — or why — I am so woefully ill-equipped to teach my kids some basic things. I seem to have just two modes: completely illogical and unhelpful (see above, “real-life is real,”) or overly detailed. Questions like, “why is that called an ambulance?” perplex me. I try to hold back from replying that it stems from the Latin root “ambul-,” meaning to walk, because it’s sort of a “walking hospital.” And when Logan asks me, “Why does the Lorax say the smoke is ‘smogulous’?” I lapse into silence, trying to come up with a better response than, “He’s trying to describe the smoke, how it looks and how it feels, so he comes up with an adjective that looks like a noun readers will recognize as something dirty and has the right number of syllables to fit into the meter of his story, which is really a long, narrative poem.”
Man, teaching college is way easier than teaching preschool.
As we sat in the audience on graduation night, my chest was tight and tears threatened to spill over my cheeks. I was giddy over how cute Logan looked in his cap and gown, devastated he was growing up and would soon be too big to want to cuddle, amazed at how eager he seemed to be for kindergarten, sad that he’d soon no longer be with his fabulous teacher, Miss Amy, and completely proud.
“Hi, my name is Logan,” he said confidently into the microphone. “And when I grow up, I want to be a race car driver.”
I exhaled. He did it!
The next boy crossed the stage. “When I grow up, I want to be Rafael,” he announced.
Rafael? A Ninja Turtle?
“Hi, I want to be Queen Elsa when I grow up,” announced a little girl.
“I want to be a pirate when I grow up!”
I couldn’t believe it. Spiderman. A fire truck. A princess. Logan wasn’t so different from his peers after all.
His teacher spoke about how far the children had all come this year, about how much they’d learned. They’d learned to write, to read, to count. They’d learned about sharing, about emotions.
At that point, I started bawling. The sheer amount Logan has learned in the past five years humbles me. From age 3 he learned to ride the bus. He’s learned to talk. He’s learned to play. He’s learned to use all those fine muscles in his fingers and exercise the big ones–learned how to master scissors as well as the monkey bars. He’s learned to recognize and empathize with others. He’s learned to eat differently, learned about unfairness and discipline and health. And all the while, he’s learned how to be a wonderful, sweet, funny kid.
If only I could learn as much.
Feeling: Choked up