Thursday, May 15, 2008

Daily Milestones

I have mentioned before, I think, that Daughter Dear is graduating from high school this month. Next week, in fact. If it weren't for mixed emotions right now, I probably wouldn't feel anything. On the one hand, I feel old and decrepit. What happened to that beautiful baby and fabulous little girl I have spent the last 18 years cherishing? This vivacious young woman is a stranger to me. She is lovely and funny and interesting, but she's too grown up to be my Darling Daughter. Where did she come from?

I also feel proud. I am proud of the wonderful young woman DD has become. I take no credit for that! The credit all goes to the grace of God and to DD herself for being such a level headed and perceptive person. She is kind (most of the time), compassionate and she would do anything for her friends. She is generous (to a fault) and squeezes an hour's worth of fun out of every fifteen minutes. I wish I could be more like her. She certainly is a great kid. I think I would like her a whole lot even if I didn't love her so much.

High school graduation is a milestone in our culture. It is perhaps less of a milestone for a kid who went to an enormous high school with thousands of students and who has held down a job working for a large corporation since she was fifteen than it was for me growing up in a small town where the high school was the center of the cultural [sic] life of the community. Nevertheless, moving from high school to college is a major stepping stone toward adulthood. I am happy for her, and I hope this is a special time in her life.

However, I am also cognizant of so much of the unfairness of the entire graduation "industry". The rich kids get all the biggest awards and scholarships. The graduation memorabilia that would probably mean the most to kids who are not going on to college is ridiculously priced and potentially out of reach for ordinary families. The cliquishness and pettiness of teenagers (and teachers) bursts forth in all its ugly meanness. Even thirty-five years (yikes!!!) after my own high school graduation, I walked into my daughter's awards banquet this evening and I could feel the under-currents of coolness-looking-down-on-geekiness and I wanted to crawl under the table and hide.

As a former geeky, smart, fat kid who wore thick glasses and had terrible acne, I thought the scars from my high school years were healed. I was wrong about that. Decades after my own graduation, I walked into a high school event this evening and, without knowing any of the people, spent most of the evening trying not to either puke or run away. My overriding concern during the entire event was that I would not do anything to humiliate or embarrass her. (As any parent of a teenager knows, humiliation and embarrassment can erupt at any moment with no apparent reason or warning.)

The most gratifying thing for me was that DD sat through the event without winning any awards or receiving any individual accolades and she still had fun. She was kind to her friends, giving patient and sweet advice and affirmation to a "geeky" friend. She made polite conversation with the parents of her friend with whom we shared a table. She even talked to her father and me. She ignored the snobs. She overlooked the teachers sucking up to the smart kids whose parents are rich and prominent. DD has goals and plans. She has places to go, things to do, things to accomplish and people to love. Graduation is swell and all, but it's not that big a deal for her.

Makes me wonder how she got so smart so young in life. Makes me wish I could have some of that wisdom even now.

To be continued ...

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