High School Graduation from the Bleachers

A few days ago I did something I haven’t done for <cough> years: I attended a high school graduation. You’re likely thinking that my oldest, A-, is 20 so surely I attended her high school graduation, right? Turns out that though she spent many years at the same private school, she ended up deciding that an online program would serve her best for the last year of high school. The program was very good and she did well, but one of the unspoken issues with an online education is that your graduation looks more like the word “completed” on a computer screen than an auditorium or football field full of cheering parents.

But a dear friend of mine’s son was graduating 12th grade from the same school and as I’m friends with him – we’re gaming buddies too – I decided that I’d head in to campus for the evening ceremony. If nothing else, then just to experience what it’s like to be a parent at a small graduation ceremony. And it was very nice, though there felt like many undercurrents of politics happening behind the scenes.

The highlight, of course, was the graduates coming out on stage, singing a song and reciting a poem both. Music during the ceremony was eclectic too, including Vienna by Billy Joel and Penny Lane by The Beatles.

small high school graduating class

I actually walked into the auditorium anxious that I’d feel upset, melancholy about my daughter’s decision not to finish high school at the school and have the experience of walking up to have the head of school hand her a diploma and hear the cheers and applause of an appreciative crowd. I did, but less than I thought, because one thing that’s become eminently clear in the last few years of my parenting journey is that you really can’t script anything and you can’t force life to move in a specific direction. The best you can do as a parent is take a deep breath, keep your sense of humor, and go with the flow, dude.

Instead, I came home and wrote a letter to A- telling her how proud I was about how she changed her high school journey to be the one she needed and that she did something remarkably difficult – attend an online school without any peer support – and did it very well.

And my friend who graduated? I’m darn proud of him too. He had his own challenges to overcome, both internal and external, and he made it to that ceremony, walked across the stage and received a well-earned diploma too.

Now for the real work; turning a high school experience into a happy and successful life. That’s a challenge all my children will face too, and it’s not for the meek.

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