Musings on the silliness that is 8th grade “graduation”

I really should start a new blog called either “Get off my lawn” or “When I was a kid . . .” because as I get older, these things sure are fun to say to my children.  And as I do so, with rolling eyes and a playful retort, we dance the dance that is called parenting.  My kids know that I am messing with them because they know that I believe that young people today live a dramatically different life than I did.  Sure, there are some more comforts  and new technologies in life, but overall, I have no doubt that the cultural and social pressures they face would have made my head explode when I was a child.

Young people today are amazing. Period.

And this is the season when we are reminded how much we love celebrating our children as across the country young people traverse stages: graduating from college, high school . . . middle school . . .  kindergarten and yes even preschool.

Oh silly United States . . .what’s next, newborn caps and gowns? *smh*

I have been teasing my oldest daughter – pictured as she got on the bus the first day of school – about the magnitude of the “graduation” festivities that mark her final year of middle school.  The conversation usually goes like this,

Me, “So, how are the 8th Grade promotion plans going?”

Eldest with eyes rolled to the back of her head and a deep sigh, “Daaaaad . . . it is GRADUATION!”

Me, “Um . . . no, not really, because they are not giving you a diploma and it’s not like you have the option of stopping and declaring you are done with school . Happy PROMOTION sweetheart, we are so proud.”

Eldest pretends not to hear me.

Now I do talk big, but we are doing our part in contributing to the crazy that are graduation plans at my daughters’ school: caps and gowns, dance, special breakfast, water park outing, etc.  Yeah, we are feeding the monster.  Part of me thinks this is just silly, just a level above having preschoolers “graduate” into kindergarten.  Not only does this give a sense of importance for some transitions that really should be assumed and expected from and for our young people, these “graduations” can also exacerbate the divisions that exist around socioeconomics and class.

After all, when I was a kid  . . . we just went to the next stage of school, no parties, no faux commencements and certainly not a huge deal over something that should be a social norm – private, public or homeschool – going to kindergarten, then middle school, then high school.  After that . . . sure, you can be done.  Might not always be a great idea, but high school, now THAT’S a graduation.

But it really is not all that easy, so putting away my old fart persona for a minute, let me share what is also wonderful about this time.   As I watch my daughter and her friends enter this new time their life, I think it is important to acknowledge these kinds of transitions and in someway reclaim the expressions of some rites of passage.  I think that society assumes that kids will just grow up on their own, after all, they embrace technology and change so much better than the generation before.  While they might be a more adaptive generation, we too often forget that they are also kids in need of acknowledgement, guidance and community.  Marking these moments, not only with “oh how wonderful you are” celebrations, but also with an acknowledgment of the importance and responsibility that this new stage brings it vital for you young people.

Some kids have low expectation about their education, they have no one who really believes in them and the last thing that may happen in their life is a big celebration for finishing the eight grade.  And then there are others who have become so entitled to these things that the gravity of the privilege of education and community is lost on them.  We must try to meet both kids so both may see that during this crucial time in their life, people believe in them, a community excited for what is ahead and there is great responsibility that comes with the gift of education.

So for those who are graduating from eight grade, congratulations.  So many are proud of you, what you have done and who you are becoming. Enjoy the summer and then get to high school already ;-)


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