Our daughter is now leaving nursery school. From her birth to my wife’s maternity leave to my paternity leave, from building a new house to finishing a doctorate to switching jobs, from one daughter to another (who’s a completely different personality…) and increasing sibling rivalry, it’s been a long ride.
“But we’ve only just begun…” 🎶
Elementary school doesn’t start until April 11, and even then it’s a half day until April 18. So it’s off to gakudo (学童). More on that later next week…after we’ve survived the first week of April. In the meantime, a recap…
The nursery school had a “graduation ceremony” for kids last weekend. Technically nursery schools (unlike kindergartens) are run by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (厚生労働省 Kousei-roudou-shou, so the graduation isn’t strictly necessary. But it was a very nice gesture, and the kids looked cute, all bowing and saying “thank you” in a loud voice when given “diplomas” individually by the school headmaster. We were astonished to find out later that the colorful diplomas, which were more like heavy cardboard books with a thick cloth sheet inside, were handmade by the headmaster herself.
Handmade. Not just the calligraphy, but all the entire diploma book.
The kids sang several songs, there were speeches by teachers and the head of the PTA, and then a lunch party with more songs. And of course all the party decorations – including four “piñata” that were opened by kids pulling strings rather than hitting – were handmade by parents.
My daughter and her classmates (and also my youngest daughter, who insisted on joining her sister) sang and danced for their teachers. During the “farewell” song the headmaster cried.
Nursery school is something Japan is very, very good at. The US and UK have a thing or two to learn.
But this was only the beginning, a beginning that started with a bittersweet ending. On Saturday my daughter sang and danced with her best friend. On Wednesday she waved goodbye as her friend and her friend’s family drove away, to move to another city and another life. Our youngest daughter had also been in a different class with the younger sister of my older daughter’s friend…two pairs of girls the same age, best friends. And now gone.
The scene was heartbreaking.
I still remember myself at around the same age, moving from the city of Troy to the countryside town of Berne, west of Albany. It seemed so far away when I was 7. Like a different country. In the middle of 2nd grade elementary, leaving behind friends that I never saw again…I can’t even remember their names, nor their faces. And here I was, at the age of 43, literally half a world away, watching the same happen in reverse to my daughter.
I wanted a house so badly before my kids got into school. So desperate to have them avoid moving around like I did as a kid (four times in total, two of which I remember). To give them a chance at having childhood friends (幼馴染 osana-najimi) they could keep in touch with in later life.
Fortunately for my kids, we now have the Internet. Even simple text messages will help us maintain contact, and as the kids get older perhaps they will use SNS to rekindle their friendship. But people do drift apart as their interests and personalities change. I can’t help but feel for my daughter, feel that one phase of her young life has ended, and another is about to begin.
And I will be there for her. Every step of the way.