You can’t escape it. You probably love seeing it. It is everywhere. Post after post about the disappointments of not seeing your kids walk in their freshly pressed cap and gowns for their graduation ceremony. I get it, I really do.
Perhaps this was supposed to be your first child’s Preschool Graduation. The sweetest, fastest, and most adorable ceremony of them all. It’s doubtful that the kids will remember it, but it is a moment in time that all parents want to capture and cherish with photos and videos. All those ridiculously adorable tiny 5-year-olds, with their flawless hair, all dressed up and ready to walk across the stage. I’m sure the butterflies would have been fluttering with a combination of nerves and excitement for the grand event. They were supposed to spend weeks practicing the art of slowly walking down the aisle and lining up on the bleachers to sing a selection of songs sure to make every mother cry. And, if that weren’t enough for us to ask of these little humans, we would also require them to stand patiently and quietly until the moment they heard their name called on the microphone. And Showtime! Time to receive that magical diploma, while turning to face the camera, and smile for giddy parents. Parents who most likely bum-rushed the stage for the chance to get THE picture they have been waiting for years to capture!
Or was this graduation even more monumental? The completion of their Elementary years of schooling. Weren’t they supposed to hold that freshly inked diploma and smile long enough for you to take a photo to document their culmination? THE picture you had been waiting for years to capture? Then, with the click of the shutter and that glorious piece of paper, your child would have the long-awaited ticket to enter the awkward world of Middle School.
Uh-oh… don’t tell me. Was it the HIGH SCHOOL graduation?? Ouch! That one has got to hurt. I get it, I really do. High School Graduation is different than graduations from the past. Now your child has reached that lovely age of preferring to spend time with friends, over time with you. But hey, at least, you would have been there to take THE picture you waited (and also dreaded) for years to document the closing of their K-12th academic door.
Please, don’t get me started on the College Graduation. I’m sure you got the point already anyhow…
Yes, these are incredibly disappointing times that we are all living in. Seeing photos of schools and families rallying around one another to give the children some kind of celebration to remember. These once-in-a-lifetime events are unfortunately coinciding during this (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime pandemic we are living through together. Please don’t forget that the lack of elaborate ceremonies does not take away from your child’s incredible accomplishments (or yours.)
There are times in our lives that can be explained with minimal effort. Then, there are unexplainable or downright unimaginable times, too. I’m so thankful to everyone working the front lines for all of us. You all remind me me of that wonderful Mr. Rogers quote…
My perspective on all things COVID-19 may be different than yours. The best explanation of why I am so freaked out over catching it, which is why I may not leave the house or see other humans for at least a year can be summed by Hazel Lancaster in The Fault in Our Stars, when she perfectly says,
…My lungs sucked at being lungs.”
John Green, The Fault in Our Stars, page 8
See, while social distancing and self-quarantining have probably caused tremendous disruption in your life, a COVID-19 diagnosis would end my life.
I have a rare form of Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD) which also caused Pulmonary Hypertension (PH) and other fancy stuff. The only thing the top specialists agree on, is that my case is very complicated and confusing. Yay me! Trust me when I tell you that my medical chart would make an excellent episode on House.
My mind wanders… a lot. First to the kids who are understandably bummed (is that word still used?) about missing prom and graduation. Then I think about their parents. Then my brain jumps to my fellow ILD community member and I wonder how they are all holding up. Next, my mind drifts off in another direction and I start to think about all of the people who had family members that lost their lives from COVID-19. They will never get to see another graduation. Ever.
What makes my Mama K stomach twist in ways I didn’t know were possible, comes when I think about an amazing Mama, blogger, and autism warrior. Little Miss Momma is holding onto her baby girl as tight as she can, in an effort to soak up and memorize every piece and detail of her daughter. While we all complain about not being able to go anywhere, Ashley Stock is working through the unimaginable pain of finding out that her child, beautiful Stevie-Lynn, has a highly aggressive brain cancer with a zero percent survival rate called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). There is no way to describe what Ashley and her family are going through that be ever be appropriate enough to put into words.
With all of this going on in the world outside my tightly sealed doors, my mind wanders back to the day we finally decided to remove our sons from the Autism school we fought so hard to place them in just a few years before. But, what are parents left to do when IEP’s cause more harm than good, and Public, Private, and Non-Public Schools are pretending to educate children? (I will get into that therapy session on another day.)
When we started homeschooling, Gamer-Boy (GB), our oldest son, was in 4th-Grade, and Little Drummer-Man (LDM), our middle child was in 3rd-Grade. I remember the last time we exited their Autism School. As we turned onto that busy street in Sherman Oaks, I remember thinking to myself that the boy’s preschool graduation was their only graduation ceremony we would ever see (until College, of course.)
Side note – For those of you thinking we made a choice and it was our decision to homeschool our children, I want to tell you something… We had NO choice. None! It was the only way to protect our children from a program that caused extensive damage to our boy’s futures. We sought advice from experts, completed extensive research, and spent a fortune in legal battles before we began homeschooling.
There were no parades or school parking lot drive-thru celebrations to commemorate their graduation. No yard signs placed in our grass. Pomp and Circumstance was never played. Gowns were not pressed, caps were not thrown. We just turned the page and went onto the next chapter.
In our home, accomplishments are celebrated and congratulated daily in ways that are more meaningful to us now than ever. We don’t have graduation ceremonies that gives us the opportunity for THE picture we waited years to capture! We are lucky because we get to be part of those moments daily. Right in the middle of a real learning milestone, as it is happening before our eyes. My favorite memories I am part of making with our children. There is nothing better than seeing your child grasp a concept they had been struggling to master. That HUGE look in their eyes and you both know they just GOT IT! The look in their eyes, right then, right when it is happening, means more to me than any cap and gown wearing while walking to Pomp and Circumstance graduation ceremony.
But, I am not a total asshole. I truly do understand the disappointment in making plans for one thing, and then BAM! An unexpected turn throws you off the track. I think it is reasonable to give yourself permission to grieve for the things you wanted, but didn’t get. Just don’t sit in that headspace for too long because nothing good comes from a pity party. Always remember…
If you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to go to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things…about Holland.”
Welcome to Holland by EMILY PERL KINGSLEY
To all students from Preschool to College, I congratulate you on this important milestone in your life. You did it! But we always knew you would. Now do something special for your parents, order a cap and gown and give them the opportunity to take THE picture they have been waiting years to take because they are so proud of you!
Until next time,