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Not Sure What Happened to My Plans for a Low-Key Graduation Party

I remember my high school graduation party like it was yesterday.

My friends and I spent the afternoon, huddled on the couch in our family room, stuffing our faces and giggling about inside jokes. I remember hoping that we’d always remain as close as we were in those moments on that Saturday afternoon not long after we’d marched to “Pomp and Circumstance” in our mortarboards and gowns.

A neighbor stopped by with a huge bin of supplies for my dorm room and she included the dry-erase board that wound up adorning every dorm room door I lived in for the four years I was in college. It was a small, simple gift but it was a tangible piece that I took with me, year after year, that reminded me of the day I spent celebrating my graduation.

In the months leading up to my graduation party, I don’t recall having to plan a single detail. I mean, I’m sure my parents sent out invitations and ordered food. I vaguely remember a few mylar balloons and a six-foot hoagie took up the length of our kitchen table, but it was a simple, low-key affair like everything else we did things in the 90s.

Nowadays, though?

Graduation parties are a big deal. Every year around May, my social media news feed is filled with pictures of huge parties with tents, balloon arches, and elaborate catered meals. Oh, and all of the photos that wind up on social media are taken by a professional photographer and then edited to perfection. I’ve been to graduation parties that have rivaled wedding receptions and I swore we’d throw a simple party for my son when his graduation rolled around.

Yeah, I was adorable.

Because I’m officially one of those graduation parents I swore I’d never be: I’m about to throw a massive graduation party for my son’s graduation, and I’m not sure at what point things went off the rails. It would seem that I have zero self-control after a year of social distancing, quarantining, and hybrid learning.

Mostly, I’m pretty sure I wanted an excuse to have a taco truck come to my driveway but that is not the point.

Here’s how to plan a not-so-over-the-top-but-you-are-definitely-going-overboard graduation party in 17 easy steps:
  1. Realize in September that your teen is graduating from high school and cry silently into your coffee on the first day of school.
  2. Spend the months of September through December assuring yourself that a graduation party won’t be necessary because it’s clear your teen will never finish his college applications.
  3. Resist the urge to hire a marching band in January to celebrate when the college acceptances start to roll in and promise yourself you won’t go overboard when your teen makes a college decision.
  4. Completely break said promise and lean into the fact that you’ve just purchased two dozen balloons in the colors of your teen’s new college or university. It’s official: Your teen is going to college! Party time!
  5. It’s February. There’s still plenty of time. But, just in case, scan Pinterest for graduation celebration ideas only to realize that every centerpiece makes you want to cry because your baby is leaving you. Slam laptop closed. You’ll try again tomorrow. Or next month. Whatever.
  6. Okay, okay. It’s April. Time to get serious: Jot down the beginnings of a guest list. OMG, how are there already 80 names on this list?
  7. Convince your spouse that a tent and table rental is necessary and smile sweetly when you gently tell him you might need a porta-potty for the event.
  8. Two words: Taco truck. How else are you expected to feed 80 people, right?
  9. Breathe into paper bag when everyone RSVPs enthusiastically “Yes!”
  10. Is it too late to hire a marching band? No, no. That would be over the top. Stay focused, be cool. This is his party, right?
  11. Decide to decorate the rented tables with pictures of your graduate throughout his years in school. Sit on the floor of your closet sobbing because the little boy in the kindergarten graduation photos is now a hairy man-child you barely recognize. Cancel centerpiece idea.
  12. It’s May. How did we get here? He’s wearing a tux and headed to prom and—OMG—his graduation is only weeks away. Should the party centerpieces just be made of boxes of tissues?
  13. Three words: Pomp and Circumstance. He did it, he’s a high school graduate! Your heart explodes into a million pieces of pride.
  14. The day of the party: It’s not too late to order a marching band, is it? No, stop it. You’ve already gone overboard.
  15. Look around the party and take in the college-colored balloons, the matching tablecloths, and the sight of all of your friends and family gathered in one place to celebrate this momentous occasion.
  16. Gaze over to where your son is sitting at a table with his friends, laughing and giggling at inside jokes, and know he’s having a moment he’ll remember for the rest of his life.
  17. Go get a taco, Mom. You did good. Even if you ordered way too many balloons.

Christine Burke

Christine Burke started the popular parenting blog, Keeper of The Fruit Loops six years ago on a whim. Since then, her work has been featured on the Today Show, Scary Mommy, Grown and Flown and other parenting websites. In her spare time, she runs marathons, collects thrift shop finds and eats ice cream like it’s her job.

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