Today is a day like many others this time of year. A day, that I’ve always heard, is a memory that will last a lifetime. Today, children will gather in front of people they love. They will wear caps and gowns that make them laugh. They will walk across a stage, shake hands and be done. At least that’s how it will look. But a change will happen that you might miss if you blink at the wrong moment.
In those few steps, they become confident and surer of themselves. They slip on a new name…”Graduate”. A name that makes them sound fuller than they were before. Some will cry. Tears falling for friends they will no longer see and moments they aren’t ready to let go of. They will taste doubt, fear and uncertainty. What now? What next? What’s up ahead? And perhaps, they view it all thorough a shade of disappointment. Did I really work for the last year…four years…eight years….or all my life for a short walk in a crowded gym? Is this really all it is? No fireworks and bells ringing? No warnings to the world that I’m going to be the one to shake things up? Did it really come down to just a few steps across a stage? In those few steps, they become wiser and have one of the first lessons that life is beautiful, heart-breaking, mysterious and disappointing all at once.
Today is my son’s middle school graduation. It’s not the impressiveness of high school and college but it’s just as important to a 13-year-old boy. He’ll stand one more time with his friends and have one final day as a group. It will be a great day and until high school graduation takes its place, it will be one of his proudest moments. My heart will swell and tears will fall. He’ll expect my tears. It’s what happens when I’m proud.
I have never been one of those mothers who say “I don’t want them to grow up”. I DO want them to grow up. I want to raise them and then send them out into the world. That is, after all, the only way they will be able to change it. I want to turn them loose to become what they are supposed to be. For me, it’s not about keeping them little. It’s about helping them grow. And really, the growing never stops.
Regardless of how old your graduate is, I hope you realize the importance for today. Kindergarten, middle school, high school, boot camp or college are all simply milestones in a continuous journey. I refuse to mourn the time that’s past because I’m far too busy looking excitedly up ahead.
No, it’s not just steps across a stage. It’s much more. It’s the sum of all that came before but it’s only the tiniest part of what will be. So please, forgive me if I cheer loudly, as he steps across the stage. And know that I’ll understand you when you do the same for your child.
By the way, my son’s name is Dereck and I believe he will change the world in his own quiet way. It’s my goal to make sure he believes that, too. It shouldn’t be that hard. You haven’t even met him and I’ve managed to convince you, haven’t I?