It’s all so sudden. The school year goes on & on. A little activity here, a little activity there and then just as school is about out…the craziness escalates to unbelievable proportions. So much now to do in so little time! With five kids in four different schools there’s a lot to think about. Signing permission papers, handing out money…that turns into my job. There’s field trips to fun locales like water parks & fairgrounds, there’s dances, awards ceremonies, performances of school plays and musical events. There’s sign up for summer school or summer activities. There’s finishing and future planning going on simultaneously…decisions, endings. And of course graduation!
This is not a graduation year for us, which is really weird since nearly every year for years someone has been graduating from somewhere. This year was quiet. The calm before next year’s storm of three graduations (from high school, middle & elementary). The question for me always is…how do you celebrate them?
We haven’t done anything memorable for 5th grade finishes. There’s no school ceremony other than a DARE graduation, which I think is now out for good with budget cuts. But there is general excitement over moving on to a new school and for them at that age, it has taken them a long time to get there. Part of the parting from elementary is the trips they’ve taken to view their new school.
Graduation from middle school is a little fancier, it’s an actual event that the girls dress up for and the boys wear whatever for. A teacher who’s had your child in class all year mispronounces their name as they march across the stage. You take some pictures just as your child walks out of the frame, but you end up with a few of them and their friends out in the dark afterwards. Did we give them a gift? Yes. No. I can’t remember!
We went through our first high school graduation last year at this time. That’s where you look back and ask, “where did the time go!” And that’s really where a big goodbye and a new hello start. How do you celebrate that time? This is where kids face the frenzy of college or the frenzy of really starting their life. It’s a big deal. Look what they’ve accomplished.
Last year I turned to my friends to figure out what is good to do? What is right to do? How do you celebrate a high school graduation and mark it in your families memories? I got no good answers. It was almost too much for anybody to think about. There are a lot of parties going on, a lot of kids getting together, but what about the family?
With no clues, no suggestions and no good ideas I set out to figure it out and set the stage for the first and the next four kids to follow. It started simple and got bigger & bigger until the bubble burst and all the fun popped out.
It started with dinner for the family and a few good friends. We chose a wonderful Italian restaurant that we’d never been to before. There were 22 of us. We ate great and it cost a small fortune. There were enough of us to make it a party, but few enough to make it intimate. Turned into the perfect gathering, the perfect celebration.
Another small celebration followed a few days later after the actual graduation took place. My son went to an all night school sanctioned party and the next morning our family loaded into the car and drove six hours to a long weekend in LaJolla, one of our favorite places. There we were met by more family and a great time.
I asked my friends, “what do you get them for a gift?” Blank stares. Thinking at the time there wouldn’t be much of a celebration so I focused on a great gift. We started with a little fridge for his room and finished with a bunch of gift cards he could use for college meals and supplies. Whew, we did good and he did better!
Can we follow that with the next kids lining up? I don’t know. I hope so. All I know is we’ll be far deeper into the college expenses with each and every child. And I know that the dollars you spend are not important, the important thing is the family commitment and attention and coming up with something special enough and unusual enough to make and mark the day. Because they will carry it with them the rest of their life. It is a benchmark.
An ending and a new beginning!