If I close my eyes, I can almost picture it . . . my 6-year-old kindergartener up on stage in his school’s cafeteria/auditorium. He’s standing up there next to his best friend who has been through the past two years of preschool with him as well. She nudges him to remind him that he’s going to be just fine; just like she always does. Then I hear the best sound: all five kindergarten classes singing a graduation poem about advancing to first grade. My parents, sister, nephews, and in-laws are there to help celebrate. We go out to eat at my son’s favorite restaurant afterward; and then we go shopping so he can pick out a few things with his graduation money. My parents stay until the end of the night and we all take selfies to commemorate the day. 

But, then I open my eyes and I’m back to our unbelievable reality.

You see, as a former kindergarten teacher, I was so excited for the day I would get to celebrate my 6-year-old accomplishing his first full-day school year. Having been through multiple Pre-K and kindergarten graduations as a teacher, I couldn’t wait to celebrate my first son’s kindergarten graduation.

It’s not high school or college graduation, but for me, it was always going to be a big deal. 

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In my family, every celebration is a big deal. We all understand that life is way too short not to enjoy and celebrate with the ones we love. In my son’s 6 years of life, he has been a part of many birthdays, graduations, holidays, anniversaries, family dinners, and so much more. 

My heart hurts that this year he missed out on a huge milestone that was meant for him.

He missed out on hugging his classmates on the last day of school, making fart noises with belly laughs as he says “I’ll see you in first grade, dude!” and handing out invites to an end of summer ice cream social and pool party in our backyard. He missed out on taking an end of the year picture with his very sweet and memorable kindergarten teacher.

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I know all of this sounds trivial and maybe even a bit selfish, but that doesn’t make my heart hurt any less. I know what the end of a kindergarten school year is supposed to look like. I know that look in a mother’s eyes as she sees her child walk on stage with a little graduation cap on his head, as she flashes back to him being handed to her in the hospital after his birth. I know the beam of pride that radiates through her soul as she catches him find her in the audience waving. 

I know what I missed out on, I know what he missed out on; and I just want to let all parents and children missing these milestones to know that it’s OK to be sad about this. It’s OK to be sad about not getting to truly celebrate life’s big and small accomplishments. 

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We were all thrown a curveball when we were preparing for a fastball. Our lives and all of its little nuances changed suddenly. Emotionally and mentally, all of these changes can and have impacted even the most level-headed of people. 

It’s OK if you closed your eyes and pictured all the milestones that you missed. Because I missed them, too. We are allowed to be blessed, healthy, and thankful while simultaneously feeling heartbroken. Our minds are complex and we are allowed to be sad that we missed out.

If I close my eyes again . . . maybe that will be enough for now.

Holly Dignen

Holly Dignen is a Stay-At-Home Mom of two boys. She is also one of three Kid's Event Chairpersons for her neighborhood community. She has her Master's degree in Elementary Education and several years of teaching under her belt. When she isn't spending time with her beautiful family, she is volunteering or writing.