As I watched the twenty-four members of my son’s preschool class proudly hoist up their good pants and walk out onto the stage to receive their diploma, I could hardly believe my eyes. It seemed like only yesterday they were squishing clay through their hands or finger-painting or figuring out the mystery of putting on their own socks. Now they were graduating. *Graduating.*

When the ceremony began the teacher solemnly led the preschool class of 2000 in a rousing rendition of “Five Little Fishies” complete with finger movements. This was followed by “I am a Nut” and an unidentifiable rhyming song that had something to do with a giraffe, although I’m not sure what.

After they received their diplomas we followed the alumni into the classroom to celebrate their accomplishments by eating cake and ice cream.

All in all, it was a wonderful ceremony. But, afterwards, when the glow of the excitement had worn off, I began thinking about how, in a matter of weeks, my son would be moving from the safe, familiar world of preschool to the unknown, confusing world of kindergarten.

Of course I had prepared him the best I could, but what does someone who has never left the front yard by himself really know about life?

So in case I’m ever asked to give a commencement address for a preschool graduation, I’ve created a list of all the important rules that every five-year-old should know:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask where the restroom is.
  • Always put on your pants before you put on your shoes.
  • When using scissors, make sure you point them away from your good shirt.
  • Flush.
  • Wear your jacket outside on a cold day even if it covers up your Batman cape.
  • It doesn’t matter where you stand in line as long as you’re in it.
  • Don’t bother mixing purple and orange paint.
  • No matter what anyone tells you, you will never be left at school to fend for yourself after all of the other children have gone home.
  • The kitchen area isn’t just for girls.
  • Never call anyone a buggernose.
  • If you’re wearing a new belt, don’t wait until the last minute to head for the restroom.
  • Never trade your milk money for an extra turn on the tricycle.
  • Be nice to people who are bigger than you for obvious reasons. Be nice to people who are smaller than you because one day they may be bigger. But don’t trust anyone who calls you a buggernose then breaks your new set of crayons on purpose.
  • Share.
  • Don’t eat crackers with wet hands.
  • Wait patiently for your turn.
  • Sing and dance and learn. Then dance some more. But only if it’s OK with your teacher.
  • Try not to smear your nametag on the first day of school.
  • At recess, make the big kid standing behind you go down the slide first.
  • Never choose something just because it’s shiny.
  • Don’t get put in the time-out chair for the same thing twice.
  • Color in the lines.
  • Ask for a Kleenex instead of wiping your nose on the back of your hand.
  • When in doubt, raise your hand.
  • Don’t lick your glue stick.
  • Always say “please” and “thank you” even if you’re not sure what for.
  • Don’t spit in the water fountain.
  • On the first day of school, cry a little bit just for your parents’ sake.
  • And, most importantly, give them a kiss good-bye. They’ll need it.