"Congratulations! Today is your day. You're off to Great Places! You're off and away!"

-- Dr. Seuss, "Oh, The Places You'll Go!"

It seems as if every kid on the planet is graduating this year. I've seen fancy dresses and smart suits, traditional caps and gowns, pictures in the paper posted by proud parents, relatives from out of town staying at the local hotels -- in other words, a whole lot of pomp and circumstance.

Usually, graduation is associated with receiving an academic degree. Formal commencement ceremonies signal the beginning of the next stage in life. But these days there seem to be graduation ceremonies for all ages and stages of life. People are attending graduation events for middle school, elementary, even preschool. I recently attended my 4-year-old granddaughter's graduation from her preschool class at John Knox Cooperative Preschool, and I hate to admit it, but it was just as moving as when my own kids got their high school and college degrees.

The preschoolers dressed up in their best outfits and marched down the aisle to the music, just like my kids did years ago. When they reached the front of the auditorium, they waved to their proud relatives sitting in the audience, then commenced singing the songs they'd been practicing for the past month. (Luckily they performed with hand gestures so we could understand most of the words.)

There were the usual performers you see at every preschool graduation ceremony -- the kid who never took his fingers out of his mouth, the kid who belted out the songs louder than anyone else, the kid who wouldn't stop waving, and the kid who couldn't stop lifting her dress up (that one happened to be my granddaughter).

After the musical portion of the graduation, the kids exited the auditorium to prepare for the final event. Moments later they returned wearing extra-small caps and gowns over their outfits and once again walked down the aisle like brides to their weddings. Mothers blubbered over their adorable graduates; fathers photographed their children for posterity; and grandparents grinned and giggled as the little ones received their rolled-up diplomas, shook hands with the head teacher and ran back to their seats. I'm not sure they knew what all the pomp and circumstance was about, but judging by the grins on their faces, they seemed to sense it was something special.

Once the ceremony was over, we headed outside for the grad party and were treated to cheese, crackers, cookies and juice. The kids played on the playground in their fancy clothes while the adults made small talk, took more pictures and handed out gifts to the teachers.

I know some people think these mini-graduations are silly. But I'm looking forward to more -- graduation from scouts, graduation from swim team, graduation from the next level of Minecraft. These rites of passage are important to let our kids know that their accomplishments -- even the little ones -- are meaningful steps toward even higher goals, as they begin those next chapters of their lives. By the time they graduate from college, they'll have that walk down the aisle, tricky handshake and tassel turn perfected. Then, oh, the places they'll go ....

Contact Penny Warner at www.pennywarner.com.