Podcast: AJ’s First Last Day – Graduating Kindergarten

Podcast: AJ’s First Last Day – Graduating Kindergarten

AJ's First Last DayLast week saw a milestone pass in our house: AJ enjoyed his very first last day of his very first year of schooling. He has now officially “graduated” kindergarten.

We are very proud.

[Blah, blah, blah — skip Rich’s philosophizing,
and go straight to the podcast!

Never having parented before, and having no memories of Kindergarten myself (I never went, scofflaw that I am), I didn’t realize there was actually liturgy for Kindergarten graduation. Maybe this is something we only do here in the Midwest. Or maybe it happens all over the world and I’ve been clueless for 39 years. Probably the latter.

I think milestones are important to celebrate — even if there’s no real par-tay and spiked beverages involved. I mean, we really don’t do these things well in America and, growing up, my family did even worse. But despite not having enjoyed a bar-mitzvah myself, or First Communion, or even Prom, I sense that making a Big Deal out of seemingly little events can be an important marker for children growing up. After all, aside from getting the keys to Dad’s car, getting a license that says you’re eligible to get legally sauced, or graduating college, there really aren’t many things in American society that really tell a child, “Hey, you’re growing up. Time to start acting like it.”

I used to think High-School graduation served that kind of function, but having worked with college students for a few years as a Chi Alpha campus pastor, I now realize that college kids are really just High School kids with more expensive text books and a lot more license to misbehave. Why? I think one reason is that upon graduating high school, society places no expectations on graduates to actually grow up. That crisis really seems to occur only on the day a boy or girl receives their BA.

But, as usual, I digress

AJ's First Last DayAJ’s graduation ceremony was short, sweet, and to-the-point. The only real delaying element was a performance by the kindergartners in a typically off-key rendition of a few songs I can’t even recall the tunes to any more. I’m not sure I could identify the melody even during the performance, actually. But that’s beside the point. It was a chance for AJ and his peers to do something in front of an assembled audience that he learned in school. He’d never done that before. It was a first.

AJ's First Last DayUnfortunately, AJ didn’t even notice. Wherever I went with my camera, his eyes followed me, much like my grandmother’s eyes followed me in that creepy portrait that used to hang up on the wall of the mobile home I grew up in. You know the kind. You could press yourself flat against the very wall that painting hangs on and, still, you could feel those flat gray eyes boring into your skull. And if you dared look … yep. Still staring.

AJ's First Last DayI went stage-left. There’s AJ giving me a thumb’s up. I go stage right. There’s AJ looking over his shoulder to mug for the camera. I go to the far back wall. AJ’s still making faces for me. It cracked me up. Everybody’s all into the performance and watching the teacher, but AJ could care less. He wants to be in pictures, and he wants his Dad to give him a thumbs up to let him know the picture came out great. For every shot.

AJ's First Last DayAfterward, we went to Cracker Barrel to celebrate (one of AJ’s favorite haunts — because of the checkerboards and toys in the lobby), and I announced I’d interview him again later that day. He got excited. And before bed-time, he was sure to remind me, “Dad, after you put Ellie to bed, how about I stay down here and you can interview me again with your little computer?”

So, for your listening pleasure, I present to you my interview with Alexander James Tatum, Kindergarten graduate extraordinaire. And, as a special one-time only bonus, I’m also throwing in a short little interview with Elisabeth Rose as well. And just in case you missed the first interview, upon AJ’s first day in class, be sure to check it out.

Interview with AJ: (18:37) [download]

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Interview with Ellie: (5:07) [download]

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Man, they grow up fast.


Music Credits:

Excellent music samples by James Hersch. Check out his site, listen to his excellent music, book him for engagements, and buy his music. Really, he’s that good!

[tags]back-to-school, children, daddyblog, elementary-school, fatherhood, first-day, first-day-in-school, interview, James-Hersch, kids, kindergarten, mp3, podcast, school, secondary-education, last-day, last-day-of-school, AJ, Ellie[/tags]

11 thoughts on “Podcast: AJ’s First Last Day – Graduating Kindergarten

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  3. slw

    Indeed, Rich, they grow up fast. My oldest just graduated from my alma mater (Penn State). Just yesterday, it seems, he was rolling on the floor in diapers wrestling with his younger brother! Time really shifts into high gear when they begin involvement in sports and scouts and whatnot.

    Where were you a Chi Alpha director? My involvement in the Chi Alpha at Penn State was a tremendous experience for me filled with nothing but great memories (thank you Stephen Michaels and Rex Bornman!).

  4. Common Swift


    “Wherever I went with my camera, his eyes followed me.”

    My niece (who I helped raised) did the same thing at her Elementary School graduation. I was turning up the sides of my mouth in a smile with my two fingers like some kind of stage Dad,”Smile more!” Smile more!”

    A website I found that I think you would get a kick out of is called offsprung.com, awesome stuff.


  5. jim

    Congratulations to AJ and all. Here in Kentucky they graduate them from Kindergarten, Fifth Grade, and possibly 8th or 9th, all before finality in the 12th. It’s all changed since my school days, but then a lot of things do within the space of over four decades. Our Senior Prom was a sock hop in the gymnasium. Nowadays they rent out some casino in France and fly everybody over there (or so it seems). Nothing is “small time” anymore. At any rate, showing our kids we’re proud of them is prime time any time. They grow up too fast, my friend…….

  6. Rich Post author

    Hey, SLW, I was a volunteer Chi Alpha campus pastor at Drury College in Springfield, Missouri: LOGOS Christian Fellowship. I was a campus minister back when volunteer campus ministers still got some cred. Nowadays I think you have to be a fully credentialed home missionary before you can lay claim to the title.

    Note to self: Next time, withhold cans of pop before interviewing AJ.


  7. Rich Post author

    @Common Swift:

    Of course, I had eyes only for AJ, but it did seem suspicous to me that when I finally grokked what was going on, he seemed to be the only kid completely distracted by his dad.

    Of course, it could have been my casual Hawaiian shirt I was wearing, or it could have been that I’m over six feet tall and outweighed every parent there by ten stone or more. Or maybe it’s because I’m just a cool dad. After all, I doubt anybody else there planned to interview their kids later that night for publishing on the World Wide Web. How cool is that?


    You Kentuckians sure sound like a partyin’ lot. Of course, that’s probably only to be expected from the state that gave us Loretta Lynn, bourbon, bluegrass, horseraces and the memorable state slogan, “Unbridled Spirit.”

    I hate that time flies so. Every year I wish I could preserve my kids and just hug ‘em at that age forever. But I know that the next year will just bring more joy — and frustration. But the joys are all the sweeter for the frustration.

    I’m just very happy that, so far, AJ still lets me hug and kiss on him without embarrassment. And I love the fact that when I sit down to watch a little Dirty Jobs on Discovery, they both want to use me as their personal recliner.

    That’ll get tough when AJ’s sixteen. We’ll see how long that lasts.


  8. John

    OK, since this was only audio, I’m going to assume you were reading from a script. Otherwise, that kid is amazing. I didn’t know the stuff he knew and I have a Master’s degree. Where did he get his smarts (that is if he wasn’t reading a script, which I still don’t have proof of!). Congratulations to all!

  9. Rich Post author

    LOL, hey, John.

    No, I can assure you, there wasn’t a script anywhere in sight. We didn’t rehearse and I didn’t coach him at all. He had no warning and no idea what I’d ask him in the interview. AJ’s just a bright little boy who’s going to put his daddy to shame in the IQ dept.

    He clearly gets his smarts from mommy. And since you know all three of us, you can probably affirm that without doubt!

    While I am clearly proud of my boy (and my little girl who is just as smart and funny as AJ), being bright is also a sort of curse. Bright people tend to be less happy than others, according to recent research I’ve seen. Bright people struggle with pride and arrogance (the “It’s hard to soar with the eagles when you’re stuck with turkeys like these” principle). Bright people are not always as successful in life as others not so profoundly gifted.

    In other words, while parents are happy to have bright kids because, I don’t know maybe they feel somehow responsible for it, intelligence is not a predictor of happiness, joy, success, love or anything.

    The one thing I do know: I cannot take credit. AJ’s and Ellie’s gifts are straight from God. I just hope I can help him with the wisdom and love he needs before he’s all growed up. And then some.


    PS: Hope we can hook up again. I think AJ’d like spending more time with uncle John!

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