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Lending a hand to the sky ~ Musings on mothering a graduating child

The western mountains were sandwiched by clouds this morning. The row of peaks was obscured by chalky grey banks of opaque clouds, no doubt packed with snow. I could see the middle elevations clearly. Along the foothills—the base of mountains—were stark white cloud balls. They looked like the trim on Santa’s hat. It was beautiful and I wished I could have pulled off the road to snap pictures. The shoulder was too saturated. If I stopped, I might never get going again. It’s been raining here for nearly a week and that is highly unusual.

When I arrived home, I didn’t go inside right away. The rain stopped briefly, so I decided to survey my front garden. Nothing is blooming yet, but the green leafy parts are thriving. They love this rain. Some of my plants have doubled in size in the past week. So much to guzzle! Earthworms everywhere, including on one of my boys. He found a worm on the leg of his jeans this morning, curled and somehow clinging to the denim. He plucked it off and tossed it into the mud amazed. How?

He doesn’t stand still long enough for a worm to charge up shoes and pants. Maybe it dropped from a tree? Maybe a robin passing overhead slipped up and let her breakfast go? The worm has a wild story to tell.

Near the edge of the driveway, I stood looking down at a billowing pile of bright green chicks and hens. Tears formed. As if there hasn’t been enough moisture dropping from the heights, I lent a hand to the sky and let loose. I cried on my coat and on my shoes. I cried over the concrete, my nose launching droplets earthbound. Massive life changes are just around the corner of next week. Aidan is graduating from high school and it’s been a long, tough year but she is going to make it. The level of bewilderment I feel is unprecedented. I had no idea what it would be like to be the mother of the grown-up almost-graduate. I suspect that moment her name is called and she strides across a stage to accept her diploma I will be left a bit tattered—in a good way. But I don’t know because I’ve never been here before.

graduate2015Neither has she. Perhaps these last days of school are being perfectly and completely sheltered by the hood of grey above, quieting us with rhythmic splashing taps, stirring us with crashes of thunder, lulling us to deep sleep. Maybe it’s all a reminder to drink, drink, drink these days in as if we, too, are thirsty earth.

Yesterday, I saw blue sky for about twenty minutes. I stepped outside to the back patio and spun like Mary Tyler Moore in Minneapolis.

Within that dizzy hour, sog, sop, slop, slip, drip, drop, droop.

I went to bed early and without apologies. Before I fell asleep, Aidan came into my room and climbed up on the bed. She rested against the headboard. Archie joined us. She said, “Tell us a story, Archie!” and he did. I listened to him but I watched her laugh when he laughed at his own cleverness. She looked grown-up.

A few minutes later, I startled awake. Archie was kissing my forehead and Aidan was gone. “Goodnight, mama!” he whispered.

Your Opinion: Are today’s grade-school “graduations” celebrating mediocrity?

I’m all about celebrating milestones. Births, deaths, birthdays, holidays–I’m your gal. However, there is a trend in our schools that disturbs me: the graduation ceremony.

Twelfth grade, college and even 8th grade Continuations should be lauded affairs, a recognition of many years of hard work. I have fond memories of my senior year revelries as my dear friends and I celebrated our journey together and toasted our future.

Now, can someone please tell me where preschool, kindergarten, grade-school et al. “graduations” fit into this formula?

Rites of passage are important and I don’t want to diminish recognizing that a child is moving from one grade to another. But it was when a friend sent a picture of his (albeit darling) kindergartner in her cap and gown that I couldn’t help but think “REALLY?”

And I remembered this exchange from The Incredibles that has always resonated with me:

Helen: I can’t believe you don’t want to go to your own son’s graduation.
Bob: It’s not a graduation. He is moving from the 4th grade to the 5th grade.
Helen: It’s a ceremony!
Bob: It’s psychotic! They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity, but if someone is genuinely exceptional…

I don’t want to be Debbie Downer here. I’m all about throwing a party and having an academic ceremony to recognize the children’s achievements. When I was younger, I was a smart and athletic kid who cleaned up on the awards every year. My children are still young and have shown different aptitudes but they likely won’t be class valedictorians.

And that’s OK.

As a parent, I’m trying not to dilute the achievements of the overachievers by making everyone a winner. I’ve seen this a lot in my children’s sporting leagues. Yes, young children should have positive reinforcements but continuing with this pattern so as not to hurt their feelings is not teaching life lessons. There are winners and losers and the most important thing is how you are taught to play the game.

I truly mourn for children who do not have support at home but am in awe of engaged teachers and mentors. I hope I’m instilling in my children a strong work ethic and a life-long love of learning with the resolve to stay in school.

But if they need a ceremony with a cap and a gown to stay motivated, maybe we’re doing something wrong.

Photo Credit.