As we’re approaching graduation season, I can’t help but think about my own daughter and feel a touch of sadness. I'm not talking about her own high school graduation, mind you. That event in the far away future actually brings a smile to my face. No, it’s all those other “graduations” that come before it.
When I see Facebook photos of kids barely out of diapers walking down a paper aisle, receiving “diplomas” and bouquets of flowers, I roll my eyes. Sure it’s adorable, but it doesn’t mean anything. If that makes me a downer, so be it.
Look, in some ways, I get it. How many times have parents uttered, "It goes by so fast"? How many times have I said that very thing since my own daughter was born?
The truth is, I don’t want to see her in a graduation gown until she actually deserves to wear it.
It’s true. Time can seem to drag on, day by day, yet suddenly you wake up and your infant is now crawling, then walking, then learning to ride a bike. And we all want to celebrate those moments. Those who know me best know that ever since I became pregnant after infertility, I have tried to live in the moment. I have tried so hard to soak in those experiences I know I will never get back.
But is the ramping up of these preschool and elementary graduation ceremonies for each milestone in a child’s life just giving parents more and more occasions to feel the loss of time slipping by? I see pictures of my friends’ children in their tiny cap and gowns and can’t help but feel a sense of dread, even though my daughter still has a few years to go before she hits preschool. The truth is, I don’t want to see her in a graduation gown until she actually deserves to wear it. I don’t want to see her toss her cap into the air until she has actually worked toward something big: her high school graduation.
I know, I’m a Scrooge, but let's be honest. If my daughter has already had two to four graduation ceremonies under her belt, her high school one, the most important one, won’t mean what it should.
I was talking with a friend the other day who had attended her school prom all four years of high school.
“By the time I got to my senior year, it unfortunately didn’t mean much anymore,” she told me.
How are graduation ceremonies any different?
I sometimes wonder about my own childhood. Did my mom ever feel weepy when I finished kindergarten, or junior high or any other grade where we now commemorate it with a full-blown ceremony? Because I distinctly remember all those school milestones being a whole lot of fun and very low-key. After a class party, my mom would pick me up from school, we’d rent a movie, order pizza and have a camp out in the living room. So basically it was no different than any other school year ending. My mom never cried or called all her friends or had an end-of-the year chalk board with all my hopes and dreams stamped on there. Nope, it was just another day.
My husband and I haven’t decided on what we want to do once the first “graduation” hits with our daughter. Do we attend? Do we plan a family vacation in its place out of sheer protest? I have a few years to figure it out, but one thing I am sure of is this: I don’t want to rush her childhood. I don’t want to place these events on a high pedestal.
Moving from one grade to the next and one school to the next should be left as just that: she's moving on up. The moments are going to happen regardless. My daughter is still going to grow up. Why cause myself to become more anxious and nostalgic by celebrating every school year that passes by complete with a personalized T-shirt, chalk board and laments to all my friends about how “big” of a milestone it is? It’s a lot for little kids to deal with, and if last year’s Facebook feed is any indication, it’s a lot for parents to deal with, too.
Luckily, I have some time still to figure out my daughter's inevitable ceremonies, but in the meantime I need to find a way to handle the somewhat ridiculousness of everyone else's "graduations."