There may have been a little poetic justice in last week’s 47-degree high school graduation weather.
It helped divert the conversation from weepy nostalgia to the cold, uncomfortable reality of our Midwestern climate. You know, a conversation with universal consternation and a blessed absence of saccharin emotion.
I hope every graduation forecast can promise as much.
Not that I’m so much the Grinch of Graduation. Marking the successful completion of college, high school, or even middle school deserves pomp and circumstance. Historically, there’s both cultural and social significance to reaching these milestones. Start counting grandparents and great-grandparents with these diplomas, and it won’t take many generations to appreciate the accomplishment.
But too often I hear about, or read about, the "blink of an eye" emotions that seem to be requisite for these occasions. You know what I’m talking about. Teary parents see their children in cap and gown, then their eyes well-up and their salty vision transforms the graduating children back into the toddlers of yore, and poof! “Where did the years go?”
Really? Where did the years go?
Over coffee, where all truths are bared, I asked my gal pals Glo and Beth how they felt about their daughters graduating. Were they sad? Did they lament the "quick passage of time?"
Gales of laughter ensued. And then the listing began.
Did those "blink-of-an-eye" parents forget the mind-numbing hours of driving carpool morning, noon and night? Did they forget the Sunday night tears when their children realized the papers, tests, quizzes and group projects were due the next day and the book they needed was still in their locker at school? What about the agony over dioramas and practicing the piano and solving for x? Did time fly by every Thursday afternoon between 2 p.m. and bedtime when it was February, dark and cold, and there was nothing to do and nowhere to go and the kids were only in preschool? Did they forget the collective sigh of adult relief when first grade started and the kids were finally in school all day?
What’s with the selective amnesia? When a crying infant wakes you in the middle of an already abbreviated REM cycle, it seems like eternity until the sun comes up. That’s right. It takes forever just to make it to dawn.
How many lunches were lovingly cut, sliced, packed… and then uneaten? How many dinners… well, dinner is it’s own subject. How many were cooked and eaten, cooked and uneaten, cooked and rejected because the offerings weren’t in the right sauce, were touching the sauce, were not vegetarian, or vegan, or free-ranging and organic and local?
How many loads of laundry does it take to raise a high school graduate? You answer that and I’ll tell you where the time goes. I can measure it in spin cycles.
My friends and I are not alone in seeing all too clearly that parenting and childhood are not the exclusive domains of sentimental mush. Did you catch the news about Adam Mansbach’s new picture book for adults? It’s titled Go the F**k to Sleep and, according to the blurb on the back of the book, it’s “Profane, affectionate, and radically honest…[it] captures the familiar – and unspoken – tribulations of putting your little angel down for the night.”
Mansbach has a whole lot of parenting -- and swearing -- to get through before his little angel makes it to the cap and gown stage.
This doesn’t mean my friends and I are without tender feelings. Full disclosure: We did tear up a little bit at graduation, and not just because we were freezing. We were swept up in the moment of watching our daughters walk across the stage to accept their diplomas. Yes, part of the emotional intensity included thoughts of our girls long ago. But part of that wave of emotion was pride in their accomplishments and excitement about the next part of their lives as they head off to college.
I’m resolute in saying I know where the time went. It didn’t fly by.