One of the best parts of my son’s high school graduation was unexpected.
It wasn’t the processional, with hundreds of young people looking dapper in their caps and gowns marching onto the football field.
It certainly wasn’t the speeches—although, thankfully, the ones at my son’s graduation were short and generated a few good laughs.
It wasn’t the fact that I teared up. (No surprise there.)
The unexpected part of my senior graduating high school is that I came to love was what I called the “after party”—the time after the ceremony, when my son moved from friend group to friend group, hugging, shaking hands, and snapping pictures.
He hugged his best friends since kindergarten, then posed with new classmates he met as a high school senior. He shook hands with teammates from all the sports he’d played over the years. Then he caught up with the gang he’d known since preschool. It was amazing to see him mark this moment with so many kids from so many different activities and parts of his life.
And it made me think.
Graduation Celebrations for Parents
Parents, we should take pictures with each other at high school graduation. Wouldn’t it be awesome to congratulate, honor, and recognize all the parents who walked alongside us and our high school graduates to this day?
I’d start with the parents I met at daycare, the ones I saw at drop off or pick up when our kids were so little. They were some of the first friends I made as a new parent. We made strides together in our early attempts to balance work and parent life.
Next, I’d want pictures with the playgroup moms who welcomed me and my messy, loud, crying tot into their homes on a rotating basis. And the summertime moms, with whom I visited the beach or pool or did anything to get the kids out of the house for a few hours. These moms made me feel less alone and sprinkled my days with the sunshine of adult companionship.
Then there were the birthday party parents. We spent dozens of weekends with each other at miniature golf, laser tag, or bounce house venues, and we weathered the noise and mirth of crowded venues like Chuck E. Cheese on Saturday afternoons for what seemed like five years in a row.
I’d want pictures with the room volunteer parents. Together we manned craft tables at holiday celebrations, helped small groups with reading or spelling, and ran activities in the hot sun on Field Day.
A big shout out to the parents who chaperoned field trips. They know how hard it is to keep a group of youngsters from wandering off on your watch! I’d snap a picture of that mom who partnered with me on a middle school overnight trip. Without her, I don’t know how I would have endured a rowdy group singing the Spongebob Squarepants theme song over and over, for the umpteenth time.
I’d want pictures of the church parents who greeted my family every Sunday, prayed for my child, taught his youth group and Sunday school classes, and walked alongside my child in his faith journey from tot to teen.
Also, I’d pose for pictures with the sports team parents. They cheered for my kid as I cheered for theirs. They shivered with me in the rain by soccer fields and sometimes shared blankets in the hockey rink so our butts didn’t freeze.
Looking around the crowd after my son’s high school graduation, there were so many more parents I didn’t know and whose photos someone else might treasure. The parents who helped with scout troops, or debate, or the robotics teams. Parents who prepped for band competitions or theater performances. Parents who ran the parent-teacher organizations.
If I were to attend a high school graduation all over again, I’d snap pictures with all the people who had been part of our family’s journey to this momentous occasion. I’d hug and high five these other adults. After years of trying to coordinate our schedules to hang out, we were actually all at the same event. Our gathering was something to commemorate and celebrate.
Because we did it! We helped shepherd each other’s kids from toddlers into young adults. Together, we made raising our kids a little easier, less lonely, and a lot more fun.