Why I Hate Gratuitous Childhood Graduations

5 minute read
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When I was a child, I remember passing from one grade to the next. Sometimes it was eventful. At other times, it was anti-climatic, but that is the nature of being a child. Graduation was something that seemed far off in the distance, somewhere otherworldly even, because when you are a child, you can’t possibly imagine the day that your life will be in your own hands—and your primary education is done. That was the significance of graduation back then.

Today, it seems like children are graduating from everything under the sun, from nursery school to eighth grade. As a parent, I’m watching and rolling my eyes. Who are these “graduations” for, anyway? I don’t want to send my child the message that each and every step in their winding path is one where we need to stop, drop and celebrate. Sure, life is grand, but if you ask me, we need to be a little more comfortable with the mediocre and mundane.

Don’t get me wrong, becoming a parent is a joyful experience in many ways; watching my child hit milestones is filled with wonder. Many times my husband and I are looking at one another saying, “Can you believe she did that?!” But not all milestones are created equal—in fact, some milestones are just plain made up. That is precisely how I feel about the creation of the preschool, kindergarten, fifth grade and eighth grade graduations. And I’m dreading it.

When I was a kid, the school year just ended. Maybe we had a pizza party, or a small family or in-class celebration, but that was it. Graduation, in my opinion, is something that happens when you truly accomplish something—and if you ask me, passing a grade that you are expecting to pass as a child is not worthy of a graduation.

I know that some parents will poo-poo me, or call me a bad sport because they think it’s cute to put their kids in little graduation caps and gowns, but hear me out. Making every occasion one that is ceremony-worthy can start to send the wrong message. We seem to state to our kids that everything they do is so special and that they should be constantly doted over. The real world isn’t going to celebrate our children every time they do what is expected of them.

While I understand that childhood is “special,” some parents need to come to grips with the fact that childhood isn’t a dress rehearsal—it’s real life—and we’re setting the foundation for our children for them to come up in the world. It’s not noteworthy that your kid is officially a middle schooler; it’s expected. It’s not a rite of passage to put on a cap and gown every time you switch schools; it’s called growing up.

I believe that graduation is a significant marker of completion. Graduation from high school signifies the ability to be in control of your life and destiny, and you have a choice whether to continue on in your education. College graduation is yet another milestone where your world is once again expanded and new opportunities become available to you. Those are significant, cap-and-gown-worthy moments. But why should our children ever care about that when by the time they reach their high school graduation, they have already participated in up to four “graduations?”

All this faux-graduation business really does is cheapen the experiences that were once really special and meaningful.

The worst part in all of this is that as a parent, you are basically forced to participate. Because as much as I truly think it’s awful that I will have to play along in these ceremonies, I’m not about to be the parent who tells my kid we’re not doing the thing all her peers are doing. That would only create trauma where it doesn’t need to exist.

I don’t know how I will handle it, ultimately. Should I explain to my child that this graduation is really just some silly game of dress up? Do I say nothing? It’s hard to know exactly how I’ll react. The simple truth is I don’t want to participate at all. So I’m appealing to parents to come to their senses.

Stop this insanity of endless graduations in the most elaborate of make-believe set ups. As a parent, I spend a lot of time playing make-believe, as a good parent should. In playgroup, we collectively spend time making things magical for our children, and it’s great. But sometimes, as is the case with these types of trumped up celebratory moments, it’s not the children we’re putting on a ruse for, it’s ourselves, and to pretend otherwise is just ridiculous.

Basically, in the end, we adults in the room are making our children get all gussied up for a graduation ceremony so that we can feel good. Our children would never know the difference, and—like we were at their age—would be completely satisfied with a pizza, some ice cream and a movie to mark the end of the school year.

Do your children a favor and request that these graduations end because they are fake, serve no purpose, and mostly, I don’t want to attend them.

Billie Criswell wrote this article for xoJane.

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