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.