I sat in a tiny chair. Legs crossed, arms folded, eyes glossed with awe, I listened. I listened to two teachers. First, a teacher who is young, conspicuously bright. Second, a teacher who taught my littlest sister, my two nephews. A teacher who is now teaching my biggest girl. She talked about Kindergarten, a land we’ve all visited, and are now visiting again. She talked about our children. And then, after welcoming us and passing out a few forms, she pulled out a piece of paper and read some words. Words she said we’d all probably heard, but words she said she read every year. Here are those words:
All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate- school mountain, but they’re in the sand pile at Sunday school. These are the things I learned:
- Share everything.
- Play fair.
- Don’t hit people.
- Put things back where you found them.
- Clean up your own mess.
- Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
- Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
- Wash your hands before you eat.
- Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
- Live a balanced life-learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
- Take a nap every afternoon.
- When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
- Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
- Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup-they all die. So do we.
And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned-the biggest word of all-LOOK. Everything you need to know is there somewhere. The Golden rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living. Take any one of these items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all-the whole world-had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess. And it is still true, no matter how old you are-when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.
These words made me smile. They were familiar, but only faintly. They were, are, at once simple and profound, utterly specific and wildly universal. That final phrase – when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together – struck me, and has stayed with me since. Isn’t this what life is all about after all? Holding hands with those we love, leading them and letting them lead us, walking together to and from, wandering without aim, making progress and standing still and spinning in place, all while sticking together?
Curriculum Night was big for me. My child is now at my school, beginning her education. She is a thoughtful creature like I am, prone to ponderous and perfectionist ways, but her twinkling eyes and subtle smile say it all – she is happy. And so am I.
What a privilege it is, and will be, to hold her little hand day after day, to travel from West to East, from home to school, to walk through the door to that bright classroom that contains so much history, so much wisdom.
What a privilege for her to go to Kindergarten.
And for me to get to go back.
Do you have any memories of Kindergarten? Do you ever look back, or look at your kids, and think that they somehow have more wisdom about the world than you do? Are you familiar with Fulgham’s words?