It is pretty simple, everyone believes their offspring is special. I guess that is a little trick nature plays on us so we don’t eat our young at the very height of the junior high know-it-all stage or the spill-a-drink at every meal stage.
So for the third time, I get to sit with 2,000 people who were told to not bring air horns — yet they still do, asked to hold their applause until the end of the ceremony — and they don’t, and sit through speeches where for a few moments you might actually believe the graduates are reaching for the stars, but actually are just a few hours away from reaching for a Busch Light out of Yeti coolers that costs more than my first car.
However, it is still a nice ritual to go through, even if all the pomp and circumstance may not have accurately represented the previous 18 years.
There are brag boards set up with every photo and ribbon ever earned since third grade, cookies decorated with the skill and precision of a Da Vinci fresco and enough cold cuts and Hawaiian buns to nearly qualify them as their own temporary food group.
There are crepe paper ribbons in school colors, and a trough filled with enough Mountain Dew to qualify it as a tributary of the Yellow River. There are hugs and selfies and generally people are on their best behaviors.
But maybe what we should really be celebrating is the reality of the last 18 years.
I think back to the day when my graduating daughter was around five, when I was tasked with trying to remove an infected earring stud and clean it with rubbing alcohol.
The screams were ear-splitting as she bellowed “stop hurting me, you are KILLING ME. Daddy why do you want to HURT ME” at the top of her lungs. No, I didn’t want to hurt her, I was just trying to gently dab a cotton ball on the ear lobe so we could take stud out. How Child Protective Services didn’t end up at our front door that day I’ll never know.
I also remember her taking all of my son’s kindergarten Valentine’s Day cards and “mailing” them all over the house (aka: throwing them away, putting them in the toilet, putting them in the oven and in the dog’s food), forcing us to go out at 11:30 p.m. the night before Valentines Day to scramble for the last box of Disney Princess cards, which shall we say he was NOT excited about.
She also had a unbroken streak of 3.67 years of spilling her drink in every restaurant we ever went to. When she wasn’t spilling drinks, she was licking salt shaker tops, because sanitary is just kind of a “arbitrary” thing after all.
In junior high there were the tears of anguish as she couldn’t find all of the rivers in China on a geography paper that might have been mimeographed a thousand times and it looked like someone had bled all over.
There were tears over sports, arguments with friends and everything else that comes with being a young teenager.
However, a funny thing happened on the way to the inevitable head-on collision between parental-teenage angst — we’ve become friends.
For almost two years now, my daughter has worked for the paper as a photographer and we have spent many evenings together covering sports. She has developed into a pretty good little shutterbug and it has forced me to look at her in a much different way. We have time in the car together traveling around, mostly talking about music, movies and politics and maybe even a little sports. From time-to-time she will have to remind me that she knows what she is doing and I wouldn’t try to tell anyone else what to do.
She is correct, but none of those people are my daughter either.
So I guess graduation really is about saying goodbye to someone I had to tell to pick up her room about a thousand times or yell at about spending all day making the “duck face” on Snapchat, and now say hello to the young woman whose company I have really grown to enjoy and more importantly love and respect.
Happy graduation, Sarah and all the rest of the Class of 2019.