Graduation Day

My daughter graduated from Kindergarten today, the first of many commencements to mark her life of learning. In the past I’ve been a little cynical about things like Kindergarten graduations. I think of the line from The Incredibles when Mr. Incredible, incredulous that he has to attend his child’s fourth grade graduation, says “we keep finding new ways to celebrate mediocrity.” It’s Kindergarten, for goodness sake. One down and a whole bunch more to go.

No such cynicism for me today. Today is a day to celebrate a very special event in the life of a very special girl. Avery is as smart as they come. The problem is, she’s not smart in the way the school system needs her to be smart. She doesn’t conform to some of the “standard operating procedures” teachers require to effectively manage too full classrooms. (A Kindergarten class in California today has 34 students. Seriously. It’s a miracle anything productive happens with that many 5 and 6 year-olds gathered in one place.) And it makes it pretty obvious why a child who strays from the behavioral or academic mid line needs the accommodations of a “special day class.” Yes, my daughter is “special.”
She started having seizures when she was about a year old. Her Epilepsy has been successfully controlled with medication for a long time now and the impact of that early seizure activity has staying power. The best evidence of it is in her fine motor skills and her emotional immaturity. This is a terribly difficult combination when you are learning how to write, among other things. We believe she knows how to do the work, that the cognitive ability is there. When it comes to executing a task like forming letters, however, it can be painfully frustrating for her, and she makes that clear by either acting out or withdrawing.
In the face of all of this her progress over the past two years has been remarkable. It is the result of her own very hard work, patient and dedicated teachers and, most significantly, a mother whose advocacy for her daughter is unfathomed.
Watching her today it was clear to me that Avery’s learning path is truly going to be her own. There will be both significant challenges and glorious victories. And, if the last few years are any measure, it will be anything but boring.
Thank you, Avery, for putting my cynicism in its place. Thank you for showing me another way to see the world. My pride in your achievement is massive. My hope for your future is abundant. My confidence in your singularity is beyond measure.
© 2010 David Berry

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