Today, my daughter graduates from her first year of preschool. The past year was difficult for all of us. She had to deal with my physical therapy appointments and counseling while I was relatively unstable. Maybe she didn’t notice much, but I certainly felt my patience shrink as my body and mind had bad days. My daughter had many social difficulties and time-outs for getting too aggressive or frustrated. She pulled hair, pushed friends, spit on the floor, and threw her toys. Not in one day (thank God), but over the nine months she had a few very bad days. Her teachers were patient and firm with her. If there is anything I know about my daughter, it is her independence. We are still working on learning time, and I think she will be able to show more self-control when she can perceive the future and have patience to wait for the time to run or throw. She and I are similar that way.
We also had good days. Field trips were difficult to find sitters for (a huge thank you to those who watched my son on those days!), but she got to try things we could never have provided for her. She swung on ropes and practiced a balance beam at a gymnastics gymnasium. My daughter’s wide-eyed glances at the planetarium were priceless. We both found immense value in her preschool’s ability to teach my daughter in new ways. In ways I do not have enough creative power to conceptualize. In ways I am not qualified to do.
Honestly, I thought it was silly to attend her graduation at first. I have never understood graduation ceremonies beside the pure celebration, which I would rather do with friends and family than strangers. I did not attend my college graduation ceremony, mostly because I was pregnant and the thought of having to sit or stand still for two hours while my son was pressing on my bladder felt intimidating. Sometimes I’m glad for the decision, but today I wish I had a picture with my family in my graduation cap and gown. Maybe I just want more proof and recognition, which is not a healthy thing to pursue.
As a mother, I see every celebration as a precious one. Even though the traditions may seem silly, the time set aside to celebrate the little steps is what helps me persevere. My husband can continue on without a spectacle, persevering with a moment of thankfulness. Either he is different, or he is not telling me how important those small victories are to him. Maybe we should find better ways to celebrate small steps.
Joy in Victory
I have a poor habit of needing to “go big or go home” with every victory. I overspend and over-stress celebrations that do not require such a large hoopla. For my daughter, we invited family to attend, I have written her a card, and purchased a small squishy doughnut. She will likely be thrilled, and it cost me $5. In contrast, her first birthday cost me $300 and I went down the rabbit hole so far that we could not afford to buy food come two weeks prior. Not a great moment for me.
If we use a variety of things to celebrate our small victories, then our children will be able to feel the joy of telling us about their victories as well. As my daughter gets older, I pray she can learn to celebrate with others and find ways to encourage herself when the victories are hard to see. Her faith depends on her ability to create joy in trials. I can teach her to explore healthy ways to celebrate, and today we do that through a small graduation ceremony, even though she goes to preschool again this September.
Now that I have another two and a half years of celebrations under my belt, I have found a few better ways to celebrate small victories without breaking the bank. Feel free to steal my ideas and spend your money on other necessities or an awesome vacation. All of these can be done for $5 or less!
- Buy Doughnuts or cookies from a grocery store. Tim Horton’s and Wegmans are our favorite spots!
- See a movie (at home, with popcorn)
- Go to a new beach or picnic spot with a packed lunch
- Let them pick out a toy from a thrift store
- Buy a special beverage (like a smoothie or slushie)
- Paint nails and give a massage
- Have a special bath (we like to paint in the tub with washable paint and then get some bubbles going)
- Make a dessert
- Clean their room for them
- Get a new coloring book and/or crayons
- Write them down on a visible white board or a paper for the fridge