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There’s No Crying at Graduation. Emotional Pomp and Circumstance

Crying at graduation? Please. Graduation is not a cryworthy event for me. I can boil it down to two words: pomp, followed by circumstance.

It has taken me years to realize that I am simply not a fan.

It started with pre-school “graduation.” I thought that was ridiculous even at the time.  What are they graduating from? Biting? Not sharing? Sitting in a circle? I just didn’t get it.

So, graduation came and went, and not a tear shed.

Granted, I have been accused of having low expectations, but graduating from preschool was definitely something, consciously or subconsciously, we had expected of our almost 5-year-old. Way to go, kid.

The years went on, and there were more milestones than I can recall. Clap outs (a Midwestern graduation), “last” band concerts, “final” sports award ceremonies, etc.  I watched many posts on Facebook about bittersweet rites of passage and people upset and tearful. I watched dry-eyed and frankly felt pretty guilty. So, not only am I the strictest parent, but I am also the most heartless parent. Way to go, me.

Milestone after milestone, and no emotion. Not even an emoticon.

“Your last kid at elementary school. Have you been crying all morning?” Hmmm—all I could think about was the extra hour I would have in the morning when she finally got on the bus at the same time as the others. It’s like Daylight Savings Time. All year long.

“Can you believe your son is starting high school? How do you feel?” Fine. Isn’t he supposed to start high school?

I can hear the Tin Man singing, “If I only had a heart.” Until now, Scarecrow had been my favorite. Suddenly, I have a new respect for Tin Man.

But there are things that make me cry—a lot. The day-to-day happenings of life creep in, choking me up in ways I can barely understand or articulate. My dearest mommy friends and I have a list of these things: dancing counselors at dropoff lines, parades (who doesn’t love a good cry at a parade), children’s high voices singing the school song. Oh, and the teacher who helped my son so much in elementary school?  Yeah, she caught my eye during the graduation slideshow—bring on the Kleenex, and please let me not make any loud guttural noises.

So, what gets me is clearly not what gets everyone else. Is my gene pool deficient? Am I lacking empathy? Don’t I care? Some would argue yes (I do not care).

I’ve spent a lot of time wondering why I didn’t get teary at my son’s high school graduation, watching him walk across the stage, grinning ear to ear. Not a tear. But the severely handicapped young lady accepting her diploma? There are no words for the complicated emotions that welled up inside of me.

And that’s when I realize what it is—it’s when something takes my breath away.

It’s seemingly small and unexpected—a moment, a tender story, a random act of kindness. That moves me, in ways I cannot express.

Last night I was on the phone with my parents. We were FaceTiming, laughing about this and that. I was poking fun at them, they at—no, I guess it was mainly me making fun of them. My 84-year-old dad said, “Hold on, I want to get the card that Zach wrote to us.”

He got back on the phone and read me the note that son-of-tearless-heartless-mom-at-graduation wrote to his grandparents, focusing on the support and love they have shown over the years. My dad started crying. I started crying.

And that’s when I knew that the gene pool was indeed deficient.

Stephanie Schaeffer Silverman is publisher of Your Teen Magazine.

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