Update: In the Wild, Graduation Style

I wish you had scratch-and-sniff screens for this gardenia. Sublime!

Words written in novel so far: 15,932 (too many other commitments this week!)

Days of summer completed: 1

Pool trips so far: 1

I know you are all sitting on the edge of your computer chairs wondering how many tears I left behind at my graduations. Well, none actually.

Hours spent at my son’s 5th grade graduation: 2. Hours spent at high school graduation for work: 1 1/2. Seems backwards, doesn’t it?

High school graduations in my county have morphed into speedy, efficient cattle calls where parents are seated at floor level and must watch their students walk across the stage and shake hands on a large screen. Speeches are regimented, kept to under three to five minutes, and contain nothing juicy that a journalist might cheer about.

NOTE: Judging by the crime stories out of Birmingham, Alabama, I am living in the wrong city for interesting quotes. Birmingham’s police officers give the reporters something to write about there. Colorful quotes, good local flavor. Here, not so much.

While the caps and gowns have gone to all black (showing gravitas?), the festive atmosphere is more like my impression of a very old marketplace. Babies, wheelchairs, crutches, people talking in normal tones of voice during the ceremony. And yes, despite begging by administrators, plenty of “Gooooooo Errrriiiicccc!”s. One unexpected shriek in the row behind me almost popped me out of my chair.

My son’s 5th grade graduation was more tame and more personal, as you might expect. I did fine until the principal, who we have known since my son started kindergarten, started talking about parents who have come to her office and cried.

I’m pretty sure she was talking about me.

I remember the counselor who told my son he would be sent to the principal’s office if he worried. I remember the horrible handwriting that was marked “illegible” on his report card in second grade. I remember the End of Grade tests that stressed him out until he took them and realized they were nothing to fear. I remember the first grade teacher who loved math and inspired my son to love it, too.

And I remember crying in the principal’s office. I haven’t even cried in front of some of my closest friends, but at our principal’s round table, I was a blabbering mess.

One of my friends described parenthood as being cut wide open and walking around open to the elements; you are completely laid bare and vulnerable. All the time. When a bully threatens my child, I imagine myself like the Cowardly Lion, fists raised: “Put ’em up, put ’em up. I’ll fight you both together if you want. I’ll fight you with one paw tied around my back.”

When your child struggles with a concept, a teacher, a negative behavior, a fear… you can feel like Prometheus with the eagle chomping on your liver, only to have the pain return anew each time your child meets a seemingly insurmountable challenge.

Every triumph is so sweet, every “I love you, Mom” afterwards so rewarding.

Perhaps the reason 5th and 8th grade graduations have come into being is because we need to celebrate the mile markers along the way: finishing 5th grade is akin to completing a 10K race. Congratulations–no small feat!

But the bittersweet part is that raising a child is in fact, a marathon. A little over six miles done, but over 26 to complete.

And then… well, my parents still call and tell me to go see a doctor when I’m sick.

14 thoughts on “Update: In the Wild, Graduation Style

  1. Bernie Brown says:

    According to my mom, who has 4 children, 10 grandchildren, 2 great grandchildren, and 1 great-great grandchild, you are never done parenting. So, it is the never ending marathon – at least the worrying part. And each time you get a grand or a great you have someone new to worry about. I didn’t really want to hear that, but I have some experience now with adult children and I know the worry continues. Sigh.

    • annewoodman says:

      Oh, Bernie, you’re only telling me what I already suspected… but it’s still tough to hear. ; ) Maybe I should have compared parenting to an ultra-marathon plus summiting Everest. Is that more like it?

  2. crubin says:

    I remember the sick-to-my-stomach feeling after a not-so-great teacher’s conference for one of my kids, so I feel your pain. Parenting can be rough at times–okay, a lot of times–but we’d never trade it for anything, would we?

    Speaking of pain, I thought of you this morning. I’m away for a few days and stuck with a hotel gym rather than my nice home collection of workout DVDs. This means treadmill jogging. Aarrgh! After an hour and five miles of circuit running (my knee would swell up like a grapefruit if I ran the whole time), I thought, how does Anne do this everyday?! Even with my music, it gets tedious. I admire you runners!

  3. jmmcdowell says:

    My mother will still tell me to be careful about things and make sure I lock up before vacation, and all the things that drove me nuts as a kid. I think you’ll be doing the same with your children. 🙂 And the eye rolls never leave us either.

    • annewoodman says:

      I guess the eye rolls show that a part of us never leaves adolescence. ; ) But being a mom now, I realize you can’t not say it! I say “be careful” every time they ride away on a bike… as if it has protective powers. I wish. ; )

  4. robincoyle says:

    How sweet. I cry at clips of graduation ceremonies on the news. I got a little teary here.

    My 88-year-old dad offered to pick me up from the airport to drive me to the off-airport car rental place so I didn’t have to take the car rental shuttle. (We needed the second car, hence I was renting one.) I said, “No bother Dad. I can make it there just fine on my own.” He said, “But I will always worry about my baby.” How sweet is that? We are doomed to always worry about our kids, even when they are 50-something.

  5. 4amWriter says:

    Very bittersweet milestone, indeed. I’m glad the ceremonies went swimmingly and you’re into summertime there. Now you can relax and worry about nothing for a while except the usual summertime afflictions–like attacking squirrels. 🙂

  6. Melissa says:

    Ours was the cattle call….so tears weren’t a problem here either….until the dang camera decided to go berserk and not work…..

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