A Graduation Letter to Max

Dear Readers,

I’ve still got some graduating preschool/pre-K business to get off my chest. I’ve been wondering if I’m overly emotional or too sentimental or what. Last week, while signing cards for the teachers, I found myself crying. It really hit me that school is ending. There were several other parents in the room. No one laughed at me. I spotted tears in at least one other mom’s eyes. They said they felt the same way. One said that leaving preschool and moving on to Kindergarten wasn’t easy. That it can often be just as hard for parents, as it is for the kids, possibly even harder. She used the word, milestone.

So, because of that, I wrote this second post on the topic.  Maybe there are other parents who share some of my feelings. I hope so. If not, then call me  emotional, sentimental, whatever it is. I’m OK with that.

I won’t be showing this letter to Max anytime soon. But this  is inspired by, and for him, his friends, the parents and the teachers. This is my way of saying thank you to all the people who’ve brightened my life  the past few years. Thank you for everything.  

June 19, 2012

Dear Max,

Today is a big day for you and your class of friends, your teachers and assistant teachers, the staff, and the parents. Today is your graduation day.

It’s  been quite a ride. We’ve had our walks to school on sunny days. Sometimes we held hands. Other times you ran  ahead of me. I’d call out, “Max, stop at the corner… wait for me!” But you’ve worn your light up sneakers with super sonic powers and ran faster than me. We’ve had our walking chats and our in-the-car-chats on rainy days, too. We noticed things and said hello or good morning to them: flowers, trees, birds, stray cats, dog walkers.  We’ve skipped over cracks. You jumped in puddles. We talked about the sky, about everything and nothing.


You’ve come home with sand and wood chips in your shoes which I emptied out (and often forgot to empty out). Your clothes were caked with mud, dirt, and paint—proof that you’ve played well. You’ve told me about your days and kept secrets, too. Most days, you’ve played well and had fun. Some things remain mysteries. You’re more of your own person now. You have a separate life with details I can’t know.

As we neared this day, I watched the classroom walls become almost blank as your artwork and projects have been taken down and given to us to bring home. I’m adding these pieces to the enormous stash I’ve been collecting for years. Maybe one day, maybe when you’re in college, I’ll figure out a way to organize and store your art a bit better. Just so you know, I’ve kept everything. I love our walls covered in your art.


I noticed the class growth chart. I’m amazed by how many  inches you’ve  grown  since you were measured at the start of the school year, since you were born. You and your friends are taller, bigger, and stronger.  You’re growing  every day. Overnight, the sneakers which I bought for you just last month, suddenly don’t fit. Neither do the rain boots and of course it’s been raining a lot lately, so I yelled at myself for not having the next size ready. It’s time for new shoes, new boots, new everything. But it’s perfectly fine to want to keep mementoes and reminders of all the people you knew and loved, of places, of things that sparked your imagination or made you happy or made you  think.

I’ve made you the best lunch, the worst lunch. I’ve seen you come home with  no food touched, or everything gone. You’re hungry. You’re full. I feel like I never have the right food. If I have the right food in sufficient quantities, you immediately stop eating it. I can’t win.


I’ve dropped you off on time and congratulated myself on the effort, but we’ve been late a lot. I’m going to have to work on that schedule thing when it’s time for Kindergarten, but I know we’ll get there. I’ve managed to pick you up on time, but often it’s not the right time according to you. In your mind, I’ve picked you up too early or too late. I’ve learned to laugh that off. I couldn’t win this one either.

I learned to let some things go a bit easier. I forgive faster. Sometimes I needed help. But a parent/friend, or a teacher would help me see the light. There has been a village here. I’ve loved the come as you are, no judgment days. The doors held open for me, the doors I opened for others.  The comings and goings. The looks  parents gave each other to say, “I’m with you on this.” Or “I know what that’s like.” Or “I can see how hard this moment is for you and I completely understand.” Or “You look great today. New haircut?” Those glances and two-sentence-long conversations were soul saving and changed the course of my days from feeling desperate or alone, to hopeful and connected to others. You’re not the only one who can do an eye roll, mister. There have been hugs, and working out problems together. People have listened to me. I hope I listened to others.


You’re  writing. You’re learning to read. You’re jumping and leaping higher than ever. You  do somersaults and hand stands and climb up and down the playground fire truck, monkey bars like a spider, like a monkey, like yourself. You and your friends move like lightning. You’re all colorful, bright, shiny. You all sparkle. You make noise. You’re silent. Your laugh is the best sound on earth. You have also been my teacher.

You  dress yourself, use the bathroom, and clean up after snack or play time (you do this much better as long as I’m not around). Maybe one day you’ll also help clean up more at home, too. I need to work on that one. You  push me. You  test everything. I get that. I love you.


You still need me and your dad.

I know this because sometimes you curl up in my lap or reach for my hand. Because you say so using your words. I do my best to hear you and see you —“listening ears” and “detective eyes.” You’re proud of yourself for all the things you can do on your own. It’s still OK for you to come to us.

You and your friends have wonderful imaginations. You’ve started a band, written songs, put on shows, and have shared with us tales of Bartholomew Butterpants. The imaginary class friend, who, because of your marvelous descriptions and tales, has become real to us, but we can never see him because he’s only visible to you and your pals and only while at school and most certainly is not visible to mommy or daddy. Ever.


You’ve  learned (still learning) to make better choices (less throwing things, hitting, hurtful words). You’ve learned from your mistakes. You seem to have the capacity to forgive us parents our daily mistakes.  Overall, you forgive quickly—your friends or situations. Disappointments and  frustrations are a bit easier for you to handle. Some days are hard for you, though. Things are too much and you need more help. You’ve got big feelings. Everyone  at your school has helped you and your friends.

You might not even remember any of this when you’re older. But if you do, I hope you’ll remember the parts where you laughed a lot. We laughed a lot. There have been magical moments. I promise you, the fun isn’t over.


You went from needing The Goodbye Window, to a peck on the cheek and a “see you later.” Sometimes you ran to me as I left.  Running for one more hug and kiss. You’ve been comforted and  joined your friends in the “I miss Mommy/Daddy Club.” You’ve cried when I left. You’ve recovered. I’ve cried when I left. I’ve recovered. I missed you. I needed you to be at school so you could play and learn with friends and so that I could work. Think. I needed this time to get stuff done. I’ve had plenty of guilt about it. Less guilt about it. And on a handful of rare days, zero guilt about it. You’ve  run to me when I picked you up. You’ve run away from me when I picked you up, begging to stay longer. You win, Max! My timing sucks and probably will suck as long as I’m your mom because I’m your mom and that’s how it is.

You’ve said, “Brain match” when you and your friends wore the same color or exact same t-shirt or had a similar idea. You said, “It’s my choice.” I’ve said, “Use your words.” You’ve said, “Mommy, listen to my words!” and  “This is my creation in my style.”

And you’ve made beautiful creations: drawings, paintings, necklaces, bracelets, light sabers, books, wishing wands, trees, hearts, flowers and so much more. You’ve collaborated with your friends on team projects and helped people by bringing food to a food pantry. I’ve loved  your enthusiasm for your school, teachers,  friends, and cubby. You’ve celebrated holidays, danced around the Maypole and splashed in  sprinklers. You’ve gone on field trips to the pumpkin patch, zoo, a grocery store, a fire station, the park, a pizza place, and to the pool. You’ve had jobs: line leader, snack helper, animal feeder, door holder. You’ve sung, danced, rolled around, and sprung up and down. There have been turtles, rabbits, a female bearded dragon lizard named Harvey, various insects, growing things.


You’ve come home full of ideas,  declaring, “We must get this special kind of bead.” Or “Mommy/Daddy, I know that already because I learned about it at school.” You’ve stated: “I love school/ I hate school/I want to go to school/I don’t want to go to school.” Being 3/4/5 has its ups and downs. It isn’t always easy or cute and it doesn’t always make sense. It hurts sometimes. I’ve tried to be there for you. I hope I’ve been there enough.

You’ve come home crying and laughing. You’ve fallen, scraped or bruised your knees, elbows, forehead, chin. You’ve been angry at me for so many things: leaving you, getting you, the wrong food, the weather, existing. I’ve tried to keep up with your needs, wants, and dreams. I missed the mark sometimes. I tried harder to get it right. I’ve let go of feeling that I’ll ever get it right. I learned Good Enough. I learned do your best, then let go.

You’ve begged me for play dates with your friends. We’ve had some. Not enough. Scheduling them is tough. But that gets into grown up schedules and boring stuff like work. Your friends have asked for play dates. We’ve had some. But again, not enough. Not as many as you would have liked. The ones we’ve had were great.

Today, you’re taking a big step forward and there are probably lots of thoughts and feelings  swirling around in your head, in the room, in this place. I’m  proud of you as I am every day. Yes, even on the days you give me a ridiculously hard time. Even as you dilly dally and postpone doing something I’ve asked you to do 3959 times. “Brush your teeth!” Or when you don’t listen when I say stop jumping off the couch (because you could  hurt yourself and I’m not feeling like a trip to the emergency room)—PLEASE STOP! I love you. I don’t always love  your behavior. But I’ve seen that it’s how it is for everyone. I understand that you’re doing everything you’re supposed to do for your age. I’m frustrated by you. I learn from you. I’m grateful for you every single day.


I  want to remind you that friends can stay friends even when they don’t see each other every day.

We can keep in touch with your friends (and my friends) and we can have play dates. We’ll always have good memories. Our friends are in our hearts.

It is hard to say goodbye.

I have a feeling that we’re gonna figure out this ending and the new beginnings as we go along. Just like we always have.

An ice cream sundae seems like a good way to start celebrating.

Congratulations, Max!



From the ending of a beautiful book:

The boy looked out toward the horizon.
The star glowed steadily, reminding him that
he still had a long journey ahead.
But it was his own journey,
his very own wonderful journey.

The Beginning.

Excerpt from The North Star © Peter H. Reynolds 2009, Candlewick Press. 

From the ending of another wonderful book:

And whatever you do—
now or later,
big or small,
loud or quiet—
whatever you do,
don’t worry.
Just try it.
Whatever you do,
whether near or so far,
I know you’ll be great.

You already are.

Excerpt from: Yay, You! Moving Out, Moving Up, Moving On  © Sandra Boynton 2001, Simon &  Schuster.

A Graduation Letter to Max, words and images © Elana Halberstadt 2012 except where noted otherwise.

2 thoughts on “A Graduation Letter to Max

  1. I am in total empathy, feeling, understanding, and congratulate Max and you and his Dad, and
    gramdparents. I have a granddaughter, leaving second grade, on to summer experiences and
    on to third grade. I thank you for these perfect words relaying just how it is, for putting intense emotions into words. Of course, we know the same feelings apply as to any level of life.
    Transition represents an ending (of a chapter) and a new beginning, yet with an even more
    profound basis.

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