Graduating on the Down Low

It’s graduation season! Since the middle of May, social media feeds have been populated with pictures and posts of smiling kids — from college students down to preschoolers — wearing their ceremonial caps and gowns, waving their hard-earned diplomas. There’s usually a lot of pomp and circumstance surrounding graduations, at least for most kids. Not mine. My boys “graduated” from middle school and elementary school, respectively, a few days ago without much fanfare. No caps and gowns. No moving up ceremonies. No commencement speeches. No leather-bound diplomas. No big family parties or expensive gifts, either. Nope, not here. We marked the occasion with haircuts and pizza before running off to basketball and lacrosse. Woo, hoo! Do we know how to party or what?!

Post-haircuts, pre-pizza (6/14/07)

I’m not complaining. As a matter of fact, I’m grateful that my boys’ schools didn’t make a big production out of it. Less pressure for me. While I am proud of my boys for successfully completing their respective levels of education, there’s really no need to over-emphasize it. Everyone “graduates” from elementary and middle school, don’t they? Do they really need a long, drawn-out, formal ceremony? I mean, three-year-olds in mortar boards are cute and all, but like everything else, it’s all a bit much. Preschool proms and grade school graduations have become the equivalent of participation trophies in youth sports. In my humble opinion, if we over-celebrate all the little achievements, the big ones are diminished. Shouldn’t an ice cream cone and a “Way to go, buddy!” suffice? But high school and college graduations, those are each a much bigger deal in my book. Those are accomplishments worthy of grand celebrations.

Both my oldest niece and my oldest nephew graduated from high school last week. This is a milestone to honor and of which both should be proud, given their individual experiences. Both experienced the traditional splendor that accompanies many high school graduations: the processional, a few speeches, a musical performance, awards, more speeches, diplomas and finally, the recessional. The only marked difference was the clothing: My niece went to a public school in Chicago, so like everyone in her graduating class, she donned the customary cap and gown in her school colors; My nephew, on the other hand, graduated from a small, private school in New York and was dressed akin to his male classmates in white pants, a navy sports coat, white dress shirt and blue school tie (girls wore long, white dresses). She was stunningly beautiful. He was tall and handsome. Both were happy, excited and relieved as they accepted their hard-earned diplomas in front of jubilant family and friends. Definitely a day worthy of more than just a pat on the back. But for my kids, finishing 8th grade and 5th grade, respectively, haircuts and pizza was enough.

My handsome nephew, surrounded by his brothers and cousins (6/16/17).

My beautiful niece, proudly displaying her HS diploma (6/15/17).

Some of you may think our school district is lame for not holding elementary school proms and middle school gradations. Some of you may think I’m a slacker mom for not making a bigger fuss about my kids’ “moving up” from one school to the next. You may even think I’m too negative or jaded. Maybe, but I’m thankful to UCFSD for not forcing my hand into something more elaborate and expensive. I believe everyone should do what works for them (this is my motto in life) — For me, that was pizza for dinner. For others, it was sending a limo to pick up their kids on the last day of preschool or hosting an all-out house party to celebrate the end of 5th grade. To those parents I say, your kids are luckier than mine. For real (no sarcasm intended).

So despite my belief that we should save the big festivities for the bigger triumphs, I do wholeheartedly congratulate all those who graduated this spring — be it from preschool or college or somewhere in between. Way to go! … Now go eat some pizza.

– LJDT

Playing Hooky, For Kid’s Sake

Friday was a warm, sunny day here in Pennsylvania — the perfect day to play hooky. Being the super awesome mom that I am (read sarcastically), I surprised my younger son with a day off from school and took him and a buddy to the NFL Draft Experience in Philadelphia as an early birthday present. My soon-to-be-11-year-old is a football fanatic, so this was a dream come true for him. Was I the coolest mom, or what? Yeah, I was … until I wasn’t.

Skipping school to attend the NFL Draft Experience … Life is good!

If you know anything about me, you know this type of event is not my thing. Far from it. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • I like my routine (morning workout, breakfast, errands, shower, lunch, writing, etc.). This was not my routine.
  • I am an introvert and need alone time each day to recharge. I did not get down time on Friday.
  • I despise crowds and have a mild case of social anxiety. Reported crowd size: 100,000 people.
  • I have too many food allergies to eat from a concession stand and outside food was prohibited. I subsisted on a bag of almonds I snuck in.
  • I drink a ton of water and pee a lot. Port-a-potties are my nemesis (I peed down my leg twice trying to avoid touching the hole/seat).
  • I get very swollen ankles when I stand for too long. Nearly 12 hours at the NFL Draft Experience = Fred Flinstone feet.
  • I am childishly impatient. Every activity had a line and every line was l-o-n-g-g-g-g!
  • I love the hot sun when I’m sitting on the beach. Philadelphia is not the beach.
  • I would do anything to make my kids happy. Case in point.

Needless to say, this was not my ideal way to spend a Friday playing hooky. I’d rather be relaxing at a spa or sitting on the beach, reading a book. But this wasn’t about me. It was about my child. Yes, I did have one or two (or maybe even three) meltdowns along the way, but I sucked it up and stuck it out for his sake because that’s what parents do; We make sacrifices for our kids, big and small. We do things we may not want to do to make them happy. Seeing my son’s face after completing the mock combine drills, hearing him talk about meeting Le’Veon Bell and watching him cheer as they called the next draft pick was pure happiness. And that was what this day was all about. So while I’d rather stick needles in my eyes than do it again, I’m glad I was able to give him an experience he’ll brag about for days and cherish for years — even if I did bitch a few times along the way.

Meeting Le’Veon Bell (Pittsburgh Steelers) — how happy is this kid?

With the Vince Lombardi Trophy #footballgoals

Today is my son’s actual birthday, so I’m letting him skip school again. This time, he wants to go to the movies and out for lunch. Now that’s more my speed.

Happy 11th birthday, O!

– LJDT