It seems like only yesterday when I held hands with my 6-year-old daughter Mackenzie and walked her down the hallway at Riverside Elementary School to her kindergarten class with Theresa Thomas.
Mackenzie - in her summer dress and sandals holding her princess backpack filled with school supplies - was rarin' to go. Mom wasn't so ready.
This past school year sped by in fast forward and Wednesday it ended when I watched her graduate at Kinder-Friend Day with 520 of her classmates. Sure it's not over, she has to go through 12 more years of school. But I've covered Kinder-Friend Day most every year since I started working for the Brainerd Dispatch in 2000 and a fair share of the Brainerd High School graduations. The comment I hear repeated time and time again is that a child's journey from kindergarten through 12th grade goes by faster than imaginable. Seriously, have you ever heard a parent of a graduating senior say, "Boy, about time my son or daughter graduates? It seems like these past 12 years dragged on forever."
Riverside Elementary School kindergartner Mackenzie Stockinger threw a ball into the center of the parachute during her activity at Kinder-Friend Day Wednesday at the Brainerd High School football field. Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Fact is, the rest of Mackenzie's school career will go fast, so I - like my fellow kindergarten parents - will just have to sit back and enjoy every minute we can. Like Kinder-Friend Day.
Kinder-Friend Day started 20 years ago. Riverside Elementary School principal Cathy Engler, who has emceed the program since its beginning, said Kinder-Friend Day was started by Brainerd kindergarten teachers, who wanted to give each kindergarten student the opportunity to celebrate the beginning of their school experience.
"We begin the celebration by mirroring the music and the march that each student will experience at the end of their school experience," she said.
Garfield Elementary School kindergartners Avery Eckman (left) and Macy Clough sang Wednesday with the students at the opening ceremonies of Kinder-Friend Day at the Brainerd High School football field. Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Kinder-Friend Day is the first time where kindergartners from all the Brainerd public and private elementary schools come together. The next time they'll be on Adamson Field together will be at their BHS graduation.
Kinder-Friend Day is a fun day. Students from each elementary school dress in a different colored T-shirt, which gives a rainbow effect to Adamson Field. Students march in a procession in front of family and friends. During a short program, students sing songs. Then the students play several activities, eat lunch and then their kindergarten school year is done.
And what a great year it was for my daughter. She learned how to read and I thought "How can a child that young read?" But she did. She brought home several books over the year and now she either reads to me or Dad or we read to her. It's so fun to watch her. You can see her brain just a turning when she struggles to try to remember a word and when she recollects it you can see the excitement in her eyes.
Montessori School kindergartner Sophie Robinson crawled through a tube at an activity station during Kinder-Friend Day Wednesday at the Brainerd High School football field. Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Her writing improved this school year and she can now write sentences. At one of the parent-teacher conferences, her teacher handed me a few of her sentences and I was astonished at what I saw. Thomas told me that she would read sentences out loud and the students' task was to write them down. Mackenzie did a great job and spelled all the words right most of the time. The few words she did misspell, you knew what the word was because she spelled it by sound.
Mackenzie's drawings and pictures also became more defined this school year. She's my little aspiring artist. Her drawings are always so colorful and bold, like her personality. She uses so many colors that bring her pictures to life.
Riverside Elementary School kindergartners Joey Wiskow (left) and Olivia Dilley played with a parachute Wednesday at Kinder-Friend Day at the Brainerd High School football field. Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Mackenzie's kindergarten experience was well-rounded from academics to making fun crafts to making friends, and her teacher was so wonderful. She really knows how to relate to her pupils. She always was on top of things and if you had a concern it'd be addressed.
However, it was an eye-awakening year for me. My oldest child is growing up and doesn't need me by her side all the time. In the first few weeks of school I walked Mackenzie to her classroom and then I got brave. I asked her if she wanted to walk into the school by herself and she was ecstatic. I dropped her off, watched her go into the school and went to work. Thoughts of "I wonder if she got into her classroom OK," to worrying about someone taking her went through my mind. But she always was OK and she'd give me a thumbs up as she walked into the school, which eased my mind.
Lincoln Elementary School kindergartner Jenna Lee rolled the ball during an activity at Kinder-Friend Day Wednesday at the Brainerd High School football field. Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
But it's a parent's job to worry and the more independence they have the more I know I will worry. And as Engler said at Kinder-Friend Day, these kindergartners are our future high school graduates of 2020 and then they'll be off to college.
I worry just thinking about that, but I know Mackenzie will again be rarin' to go.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5851.
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