Last week my son graduated from middle school in an event marked with more pomp and circumstance than a presidential inauguration.
I say he graduated, but that’s not an accurate term. He’s not Amish-completion of eighth grade does not mark the end of his school career. Rather, my son has been promoted to ninth grade, an event I had difficulty believing would ever happen when I dropped all 65 pounds of him off at the imposing middle school entrance three years prior. Watching him stumble off under the oppressive weight of a backpack bigger than his entire torso, I wondered if my tiny child could survive the relatively enormous eighth grade boys jostling past him. Darwin’s theory of natural selection came frighteningly to mind.
But he survived. And has grown, to some degree. The jury’s still out as to whether his wee Italian genes will tromp his Irish side, or vice versa.
I quietly celebrated his survival during the graduation ceremony. I observed him sitting with his classmates, in tie and jacket and carefully combed hair, and was amazed at how well he played the part of a semi-grown young man. I wondered how many of the boys, like mine, were wearing yesterday’s socks. Or had extracted last week’s food during this morning’s flossing.
My mind had time to mull over thoughts such as these because the ceremony was, well, interminable. Award after award after award was presented, until almost every boy had received recognition for something.
A plethora of academic awards were first. This I understand because, ostensibly, the institution from which my son was matriculating was devoted to academia.
After that they lost me. Highest Attendance, Athletic Achievements, Good Citizenship, Chess Club… the list went on and on.
At some point during the second hour of my son’s graduation ceremony, I had to physically restrain myself from leaping out of my seat to shout “HE’S NOT DONE YET! WE’VE STILL GOT TO DRAG HIM THROUGH FOUR MORE YEARS!”
Picked your Nose, but Managed Not to Eat It- this award was probably distributed at some point. Sure don’t want to see the underside of the seat of the kid who won that one.
I’ve heard that some middle schools celebrate “graduation” from not only eighth, but 6th and 7th grade as well. I imagine most of those kids must walk out of the ceremonies laden down with more awards and pins than a five star general. The child may not be able to conjugate a verb, but his or her resume will forevermore include the prestigious, “Did not Trade a Whole Wheat Sandwich for a Box of Nerds” award bestowed upon him or her at the age of twelve.
I certainly think we should celebrate our children’s achievements as they progress up the academic ladder. But some of these observances have gotten a little out of hand, especially those over the top middle school graduations celebrating the completion of only 66 percent of the compulsory education process.
Last night, did I stop halfway through dinner preparations and congratulate myself on my progress in cutting the vegetables? No.
During the births of my children, upon dilating 10 centimeters, did we all pause a moment to give me an award and shoot off fireworks? Unfortunately, no.
Why? I wasn’t finished yet.
In addition, and please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think we’re wasting much time and energy marking a period of time that most of us don’t ever remember. I have lots of memories of elementary school and high school, but trying to find a clear middle school memory is like looking for Waldo.
As a friend likes to say, middle school kids are in the WY’s- the Weird Years. Those years when preoccupation with yourself and the explosion of your own body hair precludes any notice of what’s actually going on around you. I spent most of middle school wandering around in full braces and a Mr. Bill T shirt. These are not years I’m eager to relive.
To all the kids in Catonsville who have just completed eighth grade, I congratulate you on your successful navigation through middle school. Don’t worry if you have trouble paying attention during your multi-hour graduation ceremony. Your brain, in an act of self-preservation, will probably wipe out most of your memories anyway.
So long, weird years.