When Did He Get So Big??

Kindergarten Graduation

Liam, 5yo, at his Kindergarten Graduation Ceremony (June 2012). He stitched a beautiful red-tailed hawk on to the sash he’s wearing – one of his favorite birds.

My 5yo has graduated. From kindergarten. And I… I… Well…

I don’t quite know how this happened!! Or rather, he’s very smart, so of course he graduated, but I don’t quite know how this happened SO FAST.

I swear I walked him to his first class just YESTERDAY! Not three years ago…

Oh! No no no no… No, he didn’t repeat kindergarten for three years; I’m sure that was a bit confusing!

First Day of Preschool

Liam, 3yo, on his very first day of school (September 2010). Look at those cheeks!!


No. Liam attends a Montessori school, and started in his Primary classroom three years ago (THREE YEARS AGO! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?!). The first year, at 3yo, he went to school just in the morning. Then, at 4yo, he returned to his same class, with his same teacher (how we adore her; she was Paisley’s primary teacher as well), and attended for the morning and stayed for lunch. At 5yo, in his third and final year (equivalent to the traditional kindergarten year), he became what they call an “Extended Day” student and stayed all day, using his afternoon hours to master all the work he’d been learning for the past three years. THREE YEARS?!

It just goes by so fast…

And sometimes I don’t want it to go so fast. I want time to slow down, so I can savor just how perfect my child is TODAY. Of course, he was perfect yesterday. And he’ll be perfect tomorrow. And the tomorrow after that… And I’ll love him to pieces every single day, at every stage of development, as he grows and matures and becomes whatever he wants to become.

But it’s so hard to give up THIS moment; I want to hold on to him just as he is forever and ever and remember exactly how wonderful and witty and unique he is NOW.

So, because I know I can’t hold on to today (and really, I don’t want to – I want my child to continue exploring and learning and thriving and moving forward), I’m going to settle on trying to capture today, the now, as fully as I can: I’m taking pictures; I’m shooting videos; I’m tucking his precious works into memory boxes. And today (actually, it took three days, but who’s counting?) I’m starting my first ever Graduation Questionnaire – a verbal snapshot, if you will – to capture a little of the inner workings of my child. If I don’t completely lose my marbles in the next few years and decades (c’mon, with my crazy life, you know it’s a feasible reality; let’s just hope I keep sane until well into my 110s, though, shall we?), I intend to ask each of the kids the following set of questions upon any significant academic milestone: graduations from kindergarten to elementary, elementary to middle school, middle school to high school, high school to college, and so on if they continue past college… (hey, a mama can dream!).

Oh! A bit about the Graduation Questionnaire itself – I’ve broken it into major thematic sections, just because I’m a little OCD like that… I also decided to set the questionnaire to a soundtrack (because I think life is better with music… that’s just me). I plan to always only pick songs that are meaningful to the child being interviewed, and will add an explanation as to why, in hopes that the songs and explanations, upon re-reading these questionnaires at some future point, will more fully flesh out the child and the moment in question, and also trigger my own memories of the time (as I believe music is a wonderful mnemonic device; I’ve also heard that chocolate assists memory recall – good thing I eat so much!).

So, without any further ado…

 THE GRADUATION QUESTIONNAIRE

PART A: THE BASICS
Song: Let’s Get It Started (The Black Eyed Peas)

Liam became quite the fan of The Black Eyed Peas when my (ingenious, brilliant, and perhaps entertainment-seeking) hubby serendipitously discovered that playing The Black Eyed Peas music videos on YouTube would settle down Liam’s baby brother whenever he was fussy (which wasn’t too often, but often enough for us to create a Black Eyed Peas station on Pandora in order to play them on the road, and to make Liam come running as soon as he heard their music piping from the computer). Though he prefers their song Boom Boom Pow, it’s rarely on the radio; I am absolutely required to blast Let’s Get It Started whenever in comes on when we’re in the car.

What is your name? Liam. (He spells it out for me… In case I didn’t know? Love.) L-I-A-M.

How old are you? Five. But I’m turning six.

How tall are you? Mmm. I don’t know. I actually don’t know. Do you know how big I am? (According to the door frame we use to mark all the kids’ heights, he was 3’ 8 ½” in March; according to his high-water pants, he has grown at least eight feet since then.)

What color is your hair? I don’t remember. I just don’t know that. (Me: Dark blonde.) Oh.

In what city do you live? State? Country? Um, I live in Washington, Seattle. What’s country mean again?

PART B: CURRENT PREFERENCES
Song: Magic Dance (David Bowie, from Labyrinth)

I can’t tell you how long I’ve waited for my kids to be ready for the movie, Labyrinth! One of my all-time favorites… I let the older two watch it about a month ago, and now Liam keeps asking if any and all songs he hears on the radio were sung by “The Goblin King.”

What is your favorite color? Why? Red. Um, because it’s a really pretty color.

What is your favorite book? The Tree House books (He means The Magic Tree House books; they are pretty fun…).

Do you have a favorite singer or band? Uh, no.

What is your favorite song? Goblin King? (At my skeptical look, he continues…) What? We sometimes listen to it…

What is your favorite movie? How to Train Your Dragons (He means How to Train Your Dragon; not plural).

What is your favorite part of the day? Why? What do you mean your favorite part of the day? (Me: Like morning, afternoon, evening… Or like when you wake up and come snuggle with me in my bed, or when you go to school, or recess…) Uh, I have to go to the bathroom. But I’ll tell you when I get back. (And we PAUSE. At this point I look at Bill and say: This is going to be the best post EVER. He laughed. As he should…. I twiddle my thumbs. I check out my email, Pinterest, Facebook. I roll my eyes. I wait some more… Finally, the child returns!) Okay, what’s the question? (I repeat the question.) Going to the Mariners game. (Me: But that’s not something you do every day…)  Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….. My favorite thing to do is to do school. Can I go watch my cartoon now? (Me: Answer a few more questions. Please??) But… whine whine whine whine!! (And we PAUSE. This is going SO well. Wow! Right… aaaaand we pick up the next day.)

What is your favorite meal? Snack? Dessert? Peanutty Pasta (followed by a big smile – a win for Mama!! Too bad that’s not what we’re having for dinner tonight…). Ritz crackers. Candy.

PART C: THE FAMILY
Song: Little Talks (Of Monsters & Men)

We listen to a LOT of the local indie radio station KEXP in our family, and this is one of our favorite bands and songs (this video was filmed by KEXP during the Iceland Airwaves festival); I think we’re also quite fond of the fact that this band is from Iceland – and even Liam is excited that his older sister and his papa are starting off our family’s global explorations in Iceland this summer.

What’s your favorite thing to do with your sister? Read books with her.

What’s your favorite thing to do with your brother? Wait, which brother. Papa or Broder? (Me: Uh, Papa is not a brother…???) Oh. Uh, I like playing “I’m going to get you!” with Broder. (This is said while on his tiptoes, with his hands up by his face like he’s pretending to be a cat, and he draws out the phrase like “IIIII’mmmmm goooooinggggg tooooo GET Youuuuu! And then he pounces… Like he really got his little brother. I confess this is a really cute game; and Broder loves it, too: I honestly think the two of them are going to bust a gut, laughing as maniacally hard as they do. Well, usually…) But when he cries, I stop. (Hmm. Well, sometimes… But at least he knows he’s supposed to stop!)

What’s your favorite thing to do with Mama? Going to school with you. Also, hugging you. (Awww!)

What’s your favorite thing to do with Papa? Uh, let’s see. Going to Mariner games with him? (Can you tell Bill took him to a Seattle Mariners baseball game this last weekend?)

What’s your favorite thing to do with your dogs? Your cats? Play ball with them. (Which he does every single morning when he wakes up at the unbearably early hour of 5:30am – the dogs, however, don’t seem to mind the early hour; they adore Liam. Naturally.) I don’t know what I do with the cats. Well, I do know what I do with Pippi; not Poncho. I hold her and kiss her. I sometimes do that with Poncho. Not all the time. (Me: Why don’t you do that with Poncho?) ‘Cuz he sometimes bites and scratches. (Right. Smart kid.)

When you get to start travelling to other countries, where do you want to go first? Why? Egypt. Because it’s really cool. (Me: What makes it cool?) ‘Cuz King Tut used to live there (the King Tut exhibit is currently at the Pacific Science Museum in Seattle, and we see the signs and billboards everywhere), and so did the Scorpion King. (Me: WAIT! WHAT?? What do you know about the Scorpion King?????) Well, I don’t know anything about the Scorpion King. But he had scorpions… (Note to self: hire private investigator to follow my child and uncover who has been corrupting said child with stories of inappropriate movies!)

Where do you want to go after that? Um, to, um um um, let’s see. What’s it called? Where [friend’s name] was born? I want to go to Germany.

And after that? I don’t know yet. (Fair enough.)

PART D: HOW HE FEELS
Song: Sail (AWOLNATION)

Oh my goodness, how I wish I had video footage of Liam ROCKING OUT to this song (and I’m talking head-banging, air-guitaring, lip-syncing ROCKING OUT) when we’re driving to school in the morning! His enthusiasm is infectious, and I happily indulge his request to turn the volume way up above all safe levels for the ear drums involved… Also, you MUST watch this video – it’s of a guy in a flying squirrel suit; I’ll leave it at that. And if Liam does anything this crazy stupid in his entire life I will kick his arse myself – if he makes it back home alive!!

What makes you laugh? Um, Paisley tickling me. Also, you tickling me. Mostly everyone tickling me. Except for those people who can’t make it work… (Clearly, we feel sorry for “those” kind of people…)

What makes you cry? When people tickle me so hard and I say stop and they don’t stop and then I start crying. And when someone bites me, also. (Of course… But, uh, who is biting my child?)

What makes you angry? When somebody pushes me. And when [kid in class] punched me in the face, I got mad at him. (Excuse me?? Apparently I need talk with my child’s teacher about my child getting punched in the face and bitten?! My Mama Bear alter ego is rising to the surface… I better take a sip of wine.)

What makes you happy? When somebody makes sure I’m okay. (Aww! That’s nice!)

Do you have a pet peeve? (Pause to define pet peeve.) When somebody sings a song so many times and they don’t stop and it really starts to annoy me. (And no! He isn’t referring to me! I don’t think…)

What’s the worst thing that could happen to you? When somebody gets really mean at me. That’s my worst thing. (Mama Bear growl about to escape…)

What’s the best thing that could happen to you? Um, when somebody, um… I don’t know that. All things are my favorites. (Happy boy!)

PART E: AT SCHOOL
Song: Under Pressure (Queen & David Bowie, as performed with puppets)

As any decent parent should do, I’m raising my children to identify important voices in the history of rock ‘n’ roll (Springsteen, Dylan, “The Man in Black,” and so on). In the last few weeks, I’ve been working with Liam on being able to “hear” Freddy Mercury; this was a surprising challenge until I remembered Liam loved this video, and explained that this song was sung with “The Goblin King” (see above).

What does your teacher do the best? Give me lessons.

What is your favorite thing to do in class? Um, to hang out with my friends. (Me: how about lessons?) My favorite thing is… hanging out with my friends. (He says this as if I’m really dim-witted. At least he doesn’t roll his eyes! As I’m about to interrogate him about lessons, he quickly cuts me off…) Mama, can we have dinner now? I’m hungry. (So, a dinner break was taken, but I fully intend to return to this question, apparently for day three of questioning, with the belief that there better be more than “hanging out with friends” happening at school…) (Next morning, I repeat the question.) I already told you, hanging out with my friends. (Me: I specifically want to hear about your favorite work in class, though.) Um. Reports. You might have already heard that. (Indeed, during his graduation ceremony in his class last Friday, his teacher had said a little bit about each child, including what their favorite work in class was… she’d mentioned that Liam’s favorite thing to do was reports. At least he reminded me of this in a kind manner, and didn’t make it sound like I was dim-witted – this time!)

How do you do that, write reports? Um, you write the words, and when you’re done you edit it. And then you write it. And then when you’re done you draw it.

What goes on at the playground? Sometimes people attack. (Me: Attack?!) Yeah, attack guys. But we just play nice games. (Me: What kind of nice games?) I don’t really know. Mostly [friend’s nickname] just makes it up. But I don’t know.

What do you want to learn in first grade? I don’t know. (I’m getting tired of hearing “I don’t know.” Maybe I need to rethink my questions. I try again…) I only know that they have the clock work.

What do you think you’ll have to learn in first grade? You don’t really have to. You don’t have to learn it. You can ask if you want to learn. (Huh.)

PART F: THE FUTURE
Song: Land Of Hope And Dreams (Bruce Springsteen)

This is my favorite of Liam’s current favorites. Bill and I are huge Springsteen fans, and of course we bought his latest album, Wrecking Ball. It’s great, and is on continuous play in the car. Liam is obsessed with listening to Track 10, Land of Hope and Dreams. It’s a great song, though not new; the video I’ve included here comes from Springsteen’s reunion tour with the E Street Band, which Bill and I attended exactly 12 years ago yesterday, on June 12, 2000, the opening night of the Madison Square Garden show in NYC; the concert was freaking EPIC, and he closed the show with this song.

Is there anything in particular you want to learn how to do? I don’t know yet. (Me: It could be anything: how to fly a plane, mow a lawn, drive a car…) I just don’t know. (Okay. Next question.)

What do you want to be when you grow up? I feel like being a vet. But taking care of honey badgers and peregrine falcons and that kind of thing. I might take care of some others…

How will you become a vet? You need to ask the people, the people that work at the vet.

Where do you think you’ll live when you’re my age? Mama? Can I just see this? I want to see what it’s like… (We pause for my child to watch the garbage truck go by in the alley. These questions are taking me forever! What was I thinking??? He tries to run off to the playroom after, but I call him back and ask the question again.)  I don’t know. I’m telling you, I don’t know yet! (Okay. Sheesh!)

If Kindergarten Liam could give advice to Grown Up Liam, what would you want to say to him? I don’t know. (Me: Well, wouldn’t it be cool if you met yourself all grown up?) Yeah, but… I don’t get it! (Okay, that’s legit. He’s only five. It’s a fairly abstract question… Or, he just wants to go back to hitting his baby brother over the head with rolled up Mariners posters that were supposed to make it out to the recycling bins. Either way…)

Is there anything else I should know about you that I should include in this report? Can I do this later? (Sure. Sure… When you graduate from elementary school… And when you graduate from middle school… And when you graduate from high school… And when you graduate from college… And when you graduate from your veterinary program… Or whatever other program you decide will help you become what you want to be when you grow up.)

HERE ENDS THE FIRST GRADUATION QUESTIONNAIRE

Yes, yes, we can and will do this later. And you know what? I’m looking forward to seeing how Liam’s answers to these questions change over time…

More than he will ever know, I’ve already enjoyed watching him grow and develop from a tiny bundle of cooing goodness into a considerate toddler who I never had to worry about running into the streets (he just always waited to hold my hand). And I’ve already enjoyed watching him grow and develop from that considerate toddler who still had cheeks rounded with baby fat, into the curious little boy he is today who still giggles like a maniac when being tickled (though I STILL don’t know how this happened SO FAST!!).

And now? Now I must content myself with looking forward to watching him grow and develop from the curious little boy he is today, who loves hanging out with his friends, into a kind young man who still loves hanging out with his friends, and is also still as sweet, as gentle, as playful, as generous of spirit, as confident, as silly, as family-centered, as perfect as he is today, as he was yesterday (okay, fine, three years ago!) when I first walked him to his classroom door, and as he was the day he was born and made our world infinitely better.

But no matter how old he gets, and no matter how tall he gets (and at the rate he’s growing now, he’ll be twenty and a half feet by the time he reaches twelve, I swear), and no matter how FAST it all goes (SO FAST!!), I hope he always smiles that same sweet smile…

And knows that he will always be my baby.

No matter how big he gets.