Today is graduation day at our local Westwood High School. The day when young people celebrate the cumulative achievement of 12 full years in education and say goodbye to school forever.
I think that having High School Graduation is one clear way in which the American education system, is much better than the British system. I think it is wonderful that all young people are expected to stay in school until they have met the wide-ranging set of challenges required to achieve a high school diploma. That this completion is seen as an achievement in its own right which all students share together. Rather than the competitive waiting for exam results (to see if you can get onto your chosen course at your chosen college) that you get in the UK. Where, despite working really hard for years at school, one bad day and one bad exam can completely change the course of your future.
So I am really looking forward to seeing my children reach that right of passage and gain their high school diploma, to see them join in the cheering mass of students throwing their caps in the air.
But I am also aware that Graduation days are also a perfect oxymoron, full of conflicting emotions: happy sadness, regretful celebration, joyous loss and ending beginnings. I’m not talking about students here but parents!
The loud beaming clapping pride of seeing your child mature and develop and stand a young adult receiving their diploma with the quiet sad sigh that a piece of your life is over.
So though I look forward to that day, to seeing my daughter in her gown and throwing her cap in the air, I’m grateful that today is only a little graduation. Her last day of middle school. While I do feel some sadness and disbelief that she went to Canyon Vista Middle School for the last time this morning and that in August she will be a Freshman at High School! I still have four years until she leaves school altogether and leaves home to go to college (hours away in New York or LA if she gets her way) Four years to prepare myself to open the champagne for her her school graduation and to walk into the other room so she does not see me cry.
Though potentially, if her teenage hostility, defiance and rejection increase over the next few years. I may be simply celebrating the end of battles over where and what to eat! Feeling relief that I will no longer have to struggle to get her to do anything she doesn’t want to do. Being glad that I will no longer have to face her angry moments when she shouts at me and throws all my mistakes and faults back in my face!
But I doubt it. Even our worst days have moments of honest conversation and hugs. Good days like today we chat happily as I drive her to school and as she gets out of the car and walks away she tells me she loves me.
So I am sure that on that day four years from now, when I am clapping my hands red with delight at seeing her receive her high school diploma there will also be a silent tear on my cheek. Because graduation day for me and for her will be full of mixed emotions. Glory in the achievement of graduating high school. Grief at her leaving school forever and so ending a major chapter of both of her and my life.
So to all the parents of students graduating today I celebrate your achievement of getting them to this day (for they would not have done it alone).
I also offer the comfort that they will probably be back home before you know it!. As more 18- 34 year olds live at home with their parents than live away!