A pre-school commencement

Graduation season is here, and students everywhere are preparing for that next critical step in their lives.

Some will be pounding the pavement, looking for careers that will use their newly acquired skills while providing them with fulfillment and a sense of self-worth, then settling for that greeter opening at Walmart.

Some will leave high school for college in a faraway town, finally emerging as independent adults, at least until they need their roommate to hold their hair while they vomit drunkenly into the john.

Others are merely moving down the hall, from the fun and games of preschool to the academic rigor of K-4.

It’s for this latter group that I was invited last week to deliver a commencement address. I know, I know — it’s preposterous that the trend of endlessly promoting self-esteem has led to formal graduation ceremonies for those barely able to control their bladders.

But more preposterous still is the idea that a 57-year-old blogger would have much in the way of advice to offer a bunch of three-year-olds. A few knew what a “blogger” was; one said he had played his older brother’s “Frogger” game, and looked forward to jumping in front of cars with me. Another noted that I resembled his grandfather, while a third said his grandfather was a “doody-head.”

Despite this rampant lack of maturity among my audience — I won’t even begin to talk about the manners of their parents — I plunged ahead with my address to the group of about 25 graduates of the Richmond Drive Child Enrichment Center. The following is a transcript of my remarks:

Boys and girls, please settle down. I need everyone’s eyes up here on me, and your hands in your laps. Aiden, we’ll get to the cake in just a minute. Sophia, please sit in your chair like a big girl. Mrs. Harrison, please stop hitting Mr. Harrison.

Honored guests, we are gathered here today to recognize a remarkable achievement. Only nine short months ago, you were a bunch of bratty two-year-olds, crying all the time and barely able to feed yourselves.

Now, with the patient help of Miss Carol and Miss Samantha, and the vigilance of your headmaster, who was able to recognize Mr. Bob as a registered violent sex offender and get him imprisoned by the second semester, we have arrived at this day of celebration.

Sophia, please sit down. I am not going to tell you again.

Webster’s defines the word “commencement” as “the beginning of something; as in ‘the commencement of open hostilities.'” Today, you leave the sheltered cocoon of pre-school and go out into the world of four-year-old kindergarten. It is a hostile world, full of challenges and trials and disputes and confrontations. There may even be a few monsters that will want to kill you.

Bailey and Abigail, please stop crying. You need to pull yourselves together.

As I was preparing for today’s address, I Googled the term “commencement speech” and found a lot of good advice. I wish to pass along some of that to you now.

You know, my favorite animal is the turtle. The reason is that for the turtle to move, it has to stick its neck out. There are going to be times in your life when you’re going to have to stick your neck out. There will be challenges and instead of hiding in a shell, you have to go out and meet them.

No, Caleb, I don’t know what’s going to happen to your class’s pet turtle Shelly. I imagine the janitor will flush him down the toilet.

As you head out into the world, you must knock on doors until your knuckles bleed. Doors will slam in your face. You must pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and knock again. It’s the only way to achieve your goals in life.

Yes, Noah, I think it’d be okay to ring the doorbell instead of knocking, assuming you can reach the button.

Never give in to pessimism. Don’t know that you can’t fly, and you will soar like an eagle. Don’t end up regretting what you did not do because you were too lazy or too frightened to soar. Be a bumblebee, and soar to the heavens! You can do it.

Harper, I know you’re afraid of bees, but you’ll just have to stop crying.

Gavin, please step away from the window and return to your seat. I didn’t really mean that you’d be able to fly. It’s what we call a metaphor. You’ll cover that in fifth-grade English.

Kids, you must believe that the sort of life you wish to live is, at this very moment, just waiting for you to summon it up. And when you wish for it, you begin moving toward it, and it, in turn, begins moving toward you.

Emma, I’m not sure where you look for job openings for “princess,” but I’d suggest starting with CareerBuilder.com, and stay away from those leeches at Monster.com.

It is so easy to waste our lives: our days, our hours, our minutes. It’s so easy to take for granted the color of the azaleas, the sheen of the limestone on Fifth Avenue, the way a melody rises and falls and disappears and rises again. It is so easy to exist instead of live.

Grayson, if you don’t get your finger out of your nose, you’ll have to visit the nurse. I knew someone once whose finger got stuck in there permanently. You don’t want to walk around the rest of your life like that, do you? Now, now, stop crying.

A great philosopher once said: There’s no there. That elusive “there” with the job, the beach house, the dream, it’s not out there. There is here. It’s in you … right now.

Addison, I’m sorry if that’s confusing. Ask your mom about it on the drive home. What? You say you’re mom is deployed in Iraq? Then ask your dad for his Skype password.

Always remember that the person who you’re with most in life is yourself, and if you don’t like yourself, you’re always with somebody you don’t like.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

Yes, Miss Carol, I realize that “naked” reference was probably inappropriate. Sorry. I forgot about Mr. Bob.

In conclusion, let me urge you all to just keep trying! Never give up. Never, never give up! Because the only person that can stop you is you. And, of course, the state police. But I swear, I didn’t know about that outstanding warrant.

Now, go out and make something of yourselves. I know the job market is tough right now. Unemployment among those under 5 years of age is at an all-time high. But the world will always need at least a few child actors, and science will always need subjects for much-needed medical experimentation.

Congratulations to everyone. Now let’s go eat some cake.

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One Response to “A pre-school commencement”

  1. Stentorphone Says:

    When I read this, I sprayed Diet Coke right out my nose.

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