Mid-May is here, so it’s Oscars seasons for parents. Graduation time!
It doesn’t seem that long ago, does it, when you only had to endure one graduation per child?
High school graduation was like the Opening Ceremonies For Finally Kicking You Out Of The House, and that’s what made the interminable ceremony tolerable for our parents. For us, the students, it was tolerable because we knew we’d never have to sit in that damn gym another time after it was all over. And, for some, even more tolerable because of a flask of vodka under the gown.
Add another one to the list if your child was lucky enough to graduate from college, although he/she is well beyond “childhood” at that point. And while college graduations make high school graduations look like a 15-second YouTube pre-roll video, they’re far better overall. You can show up late or drunk or both late and drunk if you want to and still get your degree. There are no authority figures, just a hot-shot commencement speaker and a university bigwig dressed up like some kind of Hogwarts wizard who hands you the diploma and warmly congratulates you — as if he’s ever seen you before in his life.
And not for nothing, it means your kid’s about to get a job (hopefully) and stop mooching off you.
I don’t know anyone who enjoys graduations — not students, not family, not school employees. Surely there are some of you out there, but I haven’t met any of you. They take hours. Parking is ridiculous. The seats hurt your ass and back because the only affordable way to seat 2,000 people is on folding metal chairs that pre-date the school itself.
And it’s always hot. The most exciting part of a graduation is making side bets on which grandma fanning herself with the program is going to pass out first. The second most exciting part is watching the budding one-upmanship between the family contingents to see who can yell and scream the loudest when their graduate walks across the stage. Voluntary screaming, I mean — the fussing and screaming of the little kids who were tired of this bullshit 10 minutes after the candidates marched in, those screams technically don’t even count.
But in the last couple of decades, despite the fact that no one likes them, we keep adding more. There are kindergarten graduations. Eighth-grade graduations, celebrating the exit from middle school. Even fifth-grade graduations that celebrate the entrance into middle school.
This whole process needs a penalty…an “excessive celebration” flag, if you will.
I mean, I’ll give you kindergarten graduations if I have to, because the kids are tiny and adorable, and it’s kinda like another version of your toddler walking around the living room in a diaper and mom’s high heels.
But 5th grade? C’mon, man…I don’t want to sound elitist here, but which families out there find the completion of elementary school to be a formal-wear, threshold-crossing life event?
Let’s be honest: 5th grade graduation is basically the Annoying Tween Homecoming Party, where they get sent off to join the more seasoned, mature Annoying Tweens in their natural habitat, the American middle school.
We don’t need a ceremony for this.
Eighth grade graduations should be less of a celebration than an official humbling ceremony. All the adults should dress in futuristic grey unisex tunics while reminding all the students that no matter how smart or athletic or handsome or talented their middle school peers considered them to be, they are about to be hit with life’s shrink ray that will render them the smallest, goofiest, most awkward people in their environment once again.
Oh, and while all that’s happening, this is also the time when your grades really start to determine your future. Happy graduation, pal!
Now, at the risk of sounding too curmudgeonly, I don’t buy the common argument that too many childhood graduations dilute a kid’s interest in getting to the more significant ones, high school and college. I don’t think my kids or your kids will have their accomplishment meter so absolutely pegged-out by an 8th grade cap and gown that they’ll ditch school to join the circus.
Teachers and administrators, here’s an alternate suggestion: to celebrate the end of the school year, go drink some wine with your friends and without the students and parents who are the reason you drink it in the first place!
It’s totally fine, no harm no foul! Everybody’s happy!
Until then, however, I’ll grudgingly show up, losing the screaming contest every time to the parents further down in the alphabet. And making sure my mom doesn’t pass out from the heat.