When my daughter started kindergarten, I imagined all the fun things that would happen during her first full year of school. I envisioned class trips to the pumpkin farm in the fall, holiday parties full of cute crafts, and lots of time spent helping in her classroom as her fellow 5 year-old friends learned how to read and write. That’s why I signed up (admittedly, very eagerly) to be a Room Mom for her class. And for many months, it was amazing.
And then, COVID-19 came along.
Like probably every other parent on the planet, no one could have been prepared for the abrupt end to classes and the very bumpy road to distance learning. And at first, it was kind of fun — like an unexpected vacation. For those first few weeks (before any of us really had an idea of how dire the situation would become), we became pioneers of sorts. The kids and I did a lot of crafting and baking (who knew yeast could be so intriguing?) Then, the bloom came off of the rose, and the real work of homeschooling, working, and days and nights that just seemed to melt into one another began.
When it became apparent that school was out for the summer (in April), I, like many other parents, began to bemoan all the things that we would miss had our kids still been able to stay in school. My older daughter was going to miss her junior prom, her school trip to Washington D.C., and taking her SAT (which I don’t think she was all that upset about, truth be told).
But when I thought of my 5 year old, I realized that she was not going to have her kindergarten graduation. My heart sank. No little ones in cute caps and gowns walking the wrong way down the aisle to a tinny-sounding version of Pomp & Circumstance. No posing, no pictures—nothing. I was devastated. That’s when the idea of having a kindergarten party came to my mind.
I’m a big party planner by nature. I love making shindigs for my kids, but this one was going to be different. For one thing: guests. Couldn’t have any. Even though we planned to have the “party” outdoors, it was supposed to rain the day of, which dashed any social distancing plans we had in place. As the date drew nearer, I kept asking myself, “Why am I throwing a party with zero guests? This is so silly.”
Then, I looked at my beautiful daughter’s face. That 5 year-old face that was so happy that she was getting a special party with a fancy cake just for her. A couple of times, she asked me who was coming to her party, and when I told her it was just going to be us, she didn’t seem to mind. “Am I still getting a chocolate cake?” was her response. “The biggest one ever,” I responded. And she was totally fine with it.
Soon, I realized that the party was as much for me and our family as it was for her. In a sense, her graduation party gave all of us the closure that we so desperately needed — that we (as all parents) had all been robbed of when schools closed so quickly. It allowed us to celebrate the success that Claire had attained as a kindergartener, and to applaud all of her efforts to continue distance learning despite the difficulties (we’re looking at you, Zoom calls).
Finally, we were able to feel that kindergarten had gotten its proper finale. Claire was happy, and our family was able to celebrate our little girl. And there was chocolate cake. Lots of it.