Graduations. That’s right, I said graduations, plural.
My two daughters, one 18, one 13, had graduations on the same day. One was 8th grade, the other was high school. Where the 8th grade seemed to have a ceremony that rivaled some of the weddings I’ve attended, my oldest seemed to get a bit short shrift in the process.
The reason for this is the fact that we couldn’t have people come over to celebrate her graduation before the ceremony because her sister had an 8th grade graduation that was nearly as long as a high school one. A salutatorian; a valedictorian; awards; honors; the longest of the process was the fact there was a full Catholic mass before it all. I had relatives inform me their college graduations weren’t as elaborate.
But no . . . as Hannah, my 13-year-old’s graduation ended, we had to race to the house. My late wife’s mother, who is quite ill, wanted desperately to attend both graduations. Unfortunately, her health and condition are so frail that one was all we knew we could muster for her, and since her daughter now cares for her, it was likely all she could muster, too. I sent them to the house prior to the ceremony ending so that Abbi, my 18-year-old, could get pictures in her robe and hat with her grandma.
These are the decisions, steps, and consequences you have to face in these situations.
I had to tell my middle daughter, as well as the parents around me, that while I was very proud of Hannah and the fact she’d accomplished moving to high school . . . it really was just her 8th grade graduation. That wasn’t easy for some to hear, including Hannah.
But I look at what her sister endured as well. I moved Abbi to another school 2 years into high school. New school, new friends, new classes, new way of doing things, and a co-ed environment for the first time in her hormonal teenage years. Not just a move to a new school, either, but a huge new school. Hard as it was, she managed to get through without killing anyone or me. That seemed a major accomplishment to me.
So you prep…I got stuff for sandwiches. I got beer, wine, pop, and a nice cake. All of it . . . in the hopes that the day wasn’t too insane. The reality was, if I hadn’t prepared for it all we’d have had a house full of people and no food or place for them to sit. In the end, though, it was in the low 90s for temperature. I had to sit with Hannah and her brother in the heat. Apparently parents, in an effort to get seats, started camping at the gate to the stadium in the morning before they opened. We couldn’t have done that, we had an 8th grade graduation to attend. In the end, I had 3 open seats. Hannah, Sam (one of the 10-year-old twins) and I sat and I had to send Abbi’s grandparents and Noah (the other twin) home. There was no place for them to sit.
Here’s where I look at the next steps. Abbi is really one of the most amazing young women I know – and it’s not simply because she’s my daughter. At her graduation everybody seemed to get a speech. Some were decent. One was fantastic. Most the speeches by the graduating kids, though, went along the lines of “remember that time, when we were at the volleyball game and (insert name here) told everyone he was (insert crazy antic here)?!” I wanted to get up and shout “NO! Because 99% of us either didn’t go to the volleyball game or hang out with 18-year-olds!”
See, my daughter’s already looking to college. She’s a little sad because she’s leaving home, and in the last two years we’ve become an even stronger family. Doesn’t matter that the family is one short of what it was two years ago. Maybe it’s because she wasn’t part of the 4-year-transition into adulthood many of them were. Maybe it’s because she’s not from California. Or maybe, just maybe, she’s seeing this for what it is: not a reason to look back with sadness but forward with anticipation.
So many wanted to re-live events that only a handful of people experienced anyway. But the ones who look to what’s coming; the ones who want to learn about things, not just memorize them or read them are the ones who are soaring to the front of the line. Abbi’s already thinking about the next step.
And to get there, we have all that stuff to deal with, too. No, I’m not as sad as some think I should be. Part of that is because Abbi’s here for a couple more months. Part of that, too, is that there’s still so much to do. We have to have towels, mirror, sheets, pillows, laundry baskets, books, computer, and such. She’s already looked at and filled out the housing information for her school. We’ve looked at whether she’ll need a car.
This weekend I also looked at the holidays she’ll be able to come home.
You have to understand, graduation was more than looking at what happened and shouting, screaming, and wailing “oh, it’s all gone!” I feel like we’re doing too much of that too early, anyway. Hannah’s getting the message that 8th grade – which to a person in my family and sphere of influence none of the people around me even remember 8th grade or if they got a graduation – is the same caliber of transition as high school to college. It’s not. Hannah is still the hormonal, grumpy, tomboyish 13-year-old that she’ll be in two months. I have to set her up for high school, too, but this isn’t the next major step for her.
Hannah has me here to help her and to catch her when she falls. For her older sister, though, it’s different. Abbi’s literally 1 year younger than I was when I met my wife. That both excites and scares me. I met and married too young, I think, even though I was happy for the most part.
Hannah gets her father’s arms to hold and catch her, immediately, when things go wrong for the next four years. She may not want them, but they’ll be here anyway. Just because she will. Abbi will always have me . . . but she’ll be living on her own, more or less, from August onward, and that’s a major transition.
The bright side is, having seen what’s happened and how she’s dealt with these last two years . . . she’s ready for the next step. That eases the blow of watching her grow up so quickly.