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Elementary School Graduation

I scoffed the first time I heard about it. I mean really, who could blame me. The whole idea of this event sounded completely and utterly ridiculous.

“Elementary school what exactly?”

“Elementary school graduation,” my wife said emphatically as she stressed its importance yet again.

“But it’s just elementary school. He is simply moving from one grade to the next just like he did last year. Both his sisters are “graduating” to the next grade too. Only difference is he’s headed off to a new school. Nothing to get all worked up over.”

I continued to plead my case but Shannon’s face suggested she was still unconvinced. I turned my attention to my son Cody, the would-be graduate, for a second opinion.

“Son, you don’t really care about this ceremony thing do you? Would it be a problem if I’m unable to attend.”

“Not one bit dad. I told mom that, but you know how she is about stuff like this,” Cody replied with conviction.

Exactly as I thought. My wife Shannon was making a mountain out of a molehill. Her little boy was growing up too fast and she just didn’t want to let go. So it was decided. I would go to work that day and our family would be represented by Shannon in one chair, and her box of tissue in another. Case closed. Or so I thought.

On the way to work the next day I began thinking maybe Cody cared a little more than he was letting on. It was possible he just wanted to appear big and more of a man in his father’s eyes. And since I wasn’t sure he was ok with it, I put in for the time off at work just in case. As it turns out, I’m very glad I did.

Honestly, I’d mostly forgotten about it until the “big” day arrived. My attitude was more about concern for my son than it was genuine enthusiasm. I certainly hadn’t gulped down any of the Kool-Aid my wife had been drinking that’s for sure. But the days went by, as they always do, and I soon found myself waiting in the school media center alongside the other uber-nervous parents of this year’s graduating class. I could hardly contain myself.

The first thing I noticed was how underdressed I was for the occasion. My ensemble for the day included a t-shirt with three buttons, designer jeans (perfectly acceptable in modern business circles), and brown leather boots. Shannon, of course, was wearing a nice dress but I was certain she’d be the oddball of the group. Boy was I wrong. People arrived one by one, all wearing their Sunday best. And there were lots of them.

The large number of parents in attendance became even more obvious as we moved to the cafeteria for the main event. The first rows of chairs were for the five fifth grade classes of graduates. The rest were distributed via an intense round of musical chairs. Kidding. Luckily we arrived early and secured seats in prime pic taking territory. Lots of proud parents meant lots of amateur photography.

Once the parents were settled, it wasn’t too long before the kids walked in. Two by two they marched to their chairs and as Cody caught my face out of the corner of his eye I knew I’d make the right choice. He looked elated as he realized his dad was there to see him graduate. Truthfully there should never have been a doubt in his mind. A mistake I won’t make again. Because in that moment I realized it was a much bigger deal to him than he suggested. It also dawned on me that this was a powerful moment in my own life too.

The procession continued and each child walked onto the stage to shake hands with their teachers. As Cody walked on the stage I realized my little boy was all but gone. The child standing up there was ready for life’s next challenge. And though I hadn’t realized it before, this was indeed a time to be celebrated. I was both proud and sad at the same time as it sank in just how little time I had left with my boy. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited to see him growing into the amazing man I know he will become. I just didn’t expect it to happen quite so quickly.

As we stood to leave I felt a very familiar poke in the ribs.

“Not such a waste of time after all, eh Brent?” Shannon asked rhetorically.

“Pretty cool.” I said trying hard not to let her see the tiny drops of emotion beginning to escape from my eyes.

When it was all said and done, this whole idea of graduating elementary school had started to grow on me. The principal finished by saying some very inspiring words to the students. Then they concluded by having all the children collaborate onstage in a sentimental song. It turned out to be a very moving and impacting experience. And to think we have two more turns at this as our daughters move their way through elementary school. I’m guessing on those days, we may need an extra pack of tissues.

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