When I was growing up, the only graduation ceremonies we had were from high school and college. Nowadays, there are graduation ceremonies from pre-school, kindergarten, fifth (or sixth) grade, middle school, high school and college. We celebrate accomplishment at every stage, no matter how small. I mean, really, how difficult is it to get through pre-school? But as I watch my daughter and her fifth grade friends buzzing with excitement over their upcoming (and very elaborate) culmination ceremony – the PC phase instead of graduating – I can’t help but get caught up in the energy of it all. They are thrilled, proud of themselves; really see it as a demarcation from their childhood years into being more mature young people.
They are flexing their independence in a variety of ways – from going places on their own or in small groups but with nary a parent to be found, getting and using cell phones, arranging their own study sessions and social activities. I can feel Nicole’s babyhood and childhood slipping through my fingers and have to allow myself to let it go. I can remember endless nights trying to get her to go to sleep, feeding her, changing her, and I’d often wonder, “Ugh, when is this going to end?!?” Now she gets up, gets herself washed and dressed and has even been known not only to feed herself, but the rest of the house as well – she makes a fine pancake, her grilled cheese is stellar, even if her mac and cheese still needs a little work. So those baby days have ended, replaced by chatter with girlfriends on the phone about homework, clothes and who likes who. Nicole will sit in the front seat of the car with me occasionally as I drive and has now started asking me questions about technique. I can see the wheels spinning in the back of her mind as she takes driving notes and plans her moment climbing behind the wheel. She and her best friend have already planned out their college experience. Now if only the SAT scores, college acceptance letters and financial aid all come together to support their goals, they have decided at the ripe old age of 10 that they want to go to Harvard together and be roommates. Look out Harvard.
The aisles in the stores are filled with graduation cards and decorations. And as Nicole’s big culmination draws closer, I find myself throwing an item or two in the shopping cart. I found myself in the bakery aisle debating whether to order a cake. And Natalie, Nicole’s little sister, leaned over to me and said, “don’t forget, we have to get her flowers and balloons.” I swore I was not going to make a big deal out of it, but know that I will. And I’ll cry…a lot. I’m a crier to begin with for almost no reason, so something like this just gives me license.