The Vine: April 25, 2012
My daughter told me today that she really, really, really does not want to participate in her upcoming high-school graduation ceremony. I think I'm okay with this, but…
On the one hand I am thrilled to not have to sit through a three-to-four-hour ceremony (she goes to a giant high school with something like 650 kids in her class — they hold the ceremony in the arena where our NBA team plays) just to watch her cross the stage for four seconds.
On the other hand there are the grandmas, who likely won't understand why we would even consider letting her skip this milestone/ritual/tradition. One of the grandmas is my mother, who apparently has a sore spot about graduations; she read Jeffrey Eugenides's new book and called me in a snit about the way the (fictional) characters treated their (fictional!) parents at their (did I mention this was fictional?) graduation from Brown. Turns out, she was still harboring some anger at me because of how I treated her at my own non-fictional college graduation (24 years ago!) (which was exactly how many college seniors treats their parents at graduation — a little annoyed, a little embarrassed but mostly totally self-absorbed and oblivious). So I will have to deal with that all over again, and I'm not looking forward to it. I assume we will still have some kind of celebration so perhaps that will placate her, but in the meantime there will be much judging.
On the other, other hand, I wonder if I should push back a little and encourage (perhaps make?) my daughter go. Her attitude is a bit hard for me to relate to, because I loved high school and loved graduation — sharing that experience with my classmates and friends for the last time together. She is much more like her father, who didn't attend any of his graduations, has no regrets and thinks this is the best idea ever. But maybe she will look back in 10 or 20 years and wish she had gone? Or does no one ever do that?
With all these hands and all this obvious overthinking on my part, I'd love to get your take on the situation and have the readers weigh in. Is it as simple as letting the kid do what she wants and standing my ground with my mom? Is there a secret fourth hand I haven't considered?
Yes, I've Noticed That All My Vine Questions Involve My Parents In Some Way
What I remember of my graduation days is almost exclusively the other dramas going on at the time: the revelation that my boyfriend was cheating on me with three other people, including a classmate (high school); my parents finding out about my possession arrest (college). The prevailing mood in both cases was "OMFG can we just get this shit over with," and I suspect that it still pertains, even if you don't have infidelity or misdemeanor drug charges floating around. At that point in the process, the grad mostly wants to get the damn diploma and start her summer job/stop knowing various assholes she's been billeted with for four years, and even for the proud parents, as you said, it's four seconds of photo op that somehow eats up an entire day of sweating in dress-up clothes.
But we have rituals for a reason, and it does put a period on a time in one's life, so it's not completely worthless — if you find customs valuable in that way, and the thing is, the grandmas do. The fam wants to take the pictures and admire/pick out a frame for the diploma, and come together for the occasion (or just an occasion), and as someone who had to deliver her valedictory address 20 minutes after threatening to kick two other people to death, in a white dress, before it started pouring rain? Yeah, I'd have skipped that shit if it had been an option, but in the end, it was worth doing; I'd gone to the school for 12 years…and my grandmother didn't get to see my college graduation. It's not just about Daughter finishing high school. It's about the rest of the family marking the occasion of her leaving childhood. And about keeping the peace, which as an adult she's going to have to weigh the costs of, without you buffering it for her.
So, that's how I'd put it to your daughter. You agree it's an ass-tear, and she probably won't be missing anything for herself if she skips the ceremony. But it means a lot to her grandmother(s), so it is still Daughter's choice — but if she chooses to bail on walking, she is therefore also choosing to explain it to your mother, because you ain't doing it. Up to her.
Honestly, though, I don't think there's a "wrong" here for any of you. You may want to sit your mother down in advance and apologize, separately, for being a dicksmack at your own graduation, just so that's done with and isn't getting mixed up with your daughter's decisions, but other than that, I don't think any of the choices is going to cause huge regrets in 20 years.
Tags: Donna Martin graduates! etiquette the fam