It’s June, and therefore, for those with children of almost any school age, it’s Graduation Season.
Whether from pre-school to elementary, middle to high school, or university and beyond we have all been told, repeatedly, that it is a BIG DEAL. Growing up, wasn’t it just high school that was a big deal? Prom, corsage, limo? And university – duh – but pre?? Like the trophies and the medals – it’s graduation for everyone!
For my junior high “graduation” – our grade performed a musical version of the creation story.Â I was one of 3 angels who wore flapper-style fringed dresses and sang a doo-wop song about being in Heaven. No joke. Another friend was the MC. And those were good parts. Some kids had to be “dancers” – in the dark, under black lights with white gloves doing jazz hands.
We’ve come a long way. In some ways.
When my eldest “graduated” from nursery it was kind of cute. Basically it was a photo-op situation where the parents (mostly moms) gushed about how fast time was flying. Some were saddened by it. I was relieved.
Then there was the big switch from pre-school/early years to Grade 1. For my kids, it wasn’t all that different. They went from an all-day Senior Kindergarten play-based classroom to an-day Grade One “big boy” class. Photos were, of course, adorable but the kids’ situation didn’t change all that much.
For the Elementary to Middle School jump, the kids (and parents) had an orientation so we could all understand how it would work. It felt scary. It felt serious.Â Ultimately, for our family, it was still the same kids and the same school, but it was indeed different. Different teachers teaching different classes in different rooms. For a kid who didn’t like to sit in one place, it was a godsend. For one who thought a particular teacher hated him, it was a miracle. And the best part? They had lockers.
Lockers. Some of the girls had mini carpets and teeny tiny chandeliers in their lockers. The boys had magnets and shelves…for magnets. A kid with a locker was a Big Kid. Or so it seemed to the children in grade 6. To those finishing Grade 8, the once mighty locker became just another place to put their stuff.
At about halfway through the first term of Grade 8, talk of “Grad” began. I didn’t get it. At all. Graduation from Grade 8 – for me – was not “Grad”. “Real” graduation was from high school. Or university. Suddenly I found myself discussing Prom, breakfasts, pre-parties, post-parties. The kids were barely involved. There was a parent party, a parent poem, a photo collage made by – of course – the parents for their young graduates. Decor, menus, venues – the emails were flying. Even though I was on the planning committee, I felt like quite an imposter – I didn’t buy in. Not to any of it.
And now as the big day approaches, I cannot help but think about what it really means for my boy to be heading off to high school in September. He’s excited to be going to school with all of his friends even though, as I like to tell him (frequently), he probably hasn’t even met his friends yet! Up to now, it’s been all-childhood, all the time. I know his pals, their parents, his teachers.Â Now, he’s entering his own phase. New friends. New experiences that have absolutely nothing to do with us. We won’t really know where he is, what he’s doing, or with whom. I’m well aware that it’s been my job to get him to this place, and I can only hope that he makes the right choices. I have total confidence in this young person but still – it terrifies me.
I am thrilled and scared. Happy and devastated. I know what I was up to in high school. I both laugh and cringe when I think about it. When I look at this boy, with whom I have such a special relationship, and I picture him leaving me out of his high school life – because that is exactly what he is supposed to do – I get teary. Not too many teenagers are coming home to discuss what’s going on with their mommies. Some do, sometimes, but not a lot. While my son and I are truly sympatico, I am not his best friend, nor is he mine. I don’t expect him to tell me everything, and as he enters these totally impactful high school years I’ll be happy if/when he tells me anything! This is his time. He’ll be making new memories and really carving out he who is. All exciting stuff, invigorating and, hopefully, not too traumatizing.
So much of who we become is etched upon us in high school. The music we’re into. The friends we find. The mistakes we make. High school is a place of freedom and excitement, but also a place where it can be so hard to figure out who we are. We get boxed in. Left out. Egged on. Some part of us never leaves high school.
And now that’s where he’s heading.
So as we enter his final week of middle school, with the parties and the ceremonies and the goodbyes, I know that it is “only grade 8”. And that in 4 short years when he (hopefully!) graduates from high school I will think back to this with fondness and smiles.
But for today I will wish my young graduate the fortitude to make the right decisions. To be his own person.Â To stay kind, funny, compassionate and smart. There will be wounds in the teenage world of social warfare, and challenges he’ll think he can never possibly surpass. Life will be the best. And the worst. And we will be there for him whether he wants us or not.
And whether we want to or not, we will set him free and watch him fly…..