Another milestone in my daughter’s life has come and gone. And it’s another one that somehow, when I was a kid, passed by my cohorts and me without notice. Yet we grew up to be productive members of society (except for that reefer dude, but never mind that). The milestone that I’m talking about is 8th grade graduation.
Back in the day, when mini-skirts were new, we went to junior high school, not middle school. Junior high school included 7th, 8th, and 9th grades. That meant we entered high school, and didn’t even know it. Somewhere in 9th grade, I recall a sophisticated friend raising an eyebrow and sniffing, “We’re in high school now, you know”. The rest of us just threw our Twinkie wrappers at her and told her to quit being such a snoot. Nobody was paying much attention to our grades. Nobody was making a four-year college preparatory plan for us. I still don’t know if our 9th grade transcripts were sent to the colleges we eventually applied to.
The passage from 8th grade to 9th grade was marked by nothing more than perhaps changing shoe size over the summer.
So I’m astounded at the big hoopla over 8th grade graduation. Last I looked at California state law, a child has to go to school until age 18. You’d have to be held back four times to drop out of school legally before completing middle school. Not even the reefer dude had that kind of academic trouble, although come to think of it, he was shaving in 6th grade.
Moreover, flunking a grade becomes an impossibility in our school district, where the line to sign up children for extra-curricular advanced math tutoring at the neighborhood Kumon Center is longer than the line at the DMV to renew your driver’s license without an appointment.
But apparently, I’m the only one who isn’t impressed with her child completing 8th grade. The children spent their last week of school rehearsing a well-oiled graduation ceremony. My gosh, those kids could really sit down and stand up in unison. And boy oh boy, could they march two by two or what? Sure, I enjoyed as much as the next gal wrestling parents for a coveted aisle seat that had a clear shot for photographs. Still, it seems to be just a tad of overkill, since they’ll be standing at those crazy crossroads of life again in four more years, and, hopefully, four years after that.
Overkill, however, doesn’t begin to describe the party that followed the ceremony. I know that high school parents do an amazing party for their graduating seniors, but that’s because it assures the kids will show up and be safe in the gym, rather than driving drunk from party to party (not that I would know about that). This middle school party had unbelievably spectacular decorations – a replica of San Francisco, including the Golden Gate Bridge, the Palace of Fine Arts, Lombard Street, and the financial district. Devoted parents slaved over this party all year. I appreciate their dedication and hard work. The kids had a great time, but I think they would have had a great time with some streamers and balloons, as long as they had a last chance to hang out with their friends while listening to Lady Gaga and Ke$ha tunes.
I’m thinking back to when the pre-school teacher earnestly told me that my daughter was “kindergarten-ready”. A year later we were attending kindergarten graduation, where the teacher made everyone personally fitted graduation mortor boards. Finishing 5th grade had a certain amount of hullabaloo, too. Changing schools is a big deal for kids, but for most kids, the celebrations strike me as confusing achievement with just plain growing up.
Maybe people see the end of middle school as a good time for a coming of age ceremony, in place of a Bat Mitzvah or quinceanera, and the pretty dresses and handsome suits do make good photo ops. But I can’t help but wonder, when our children really do achieve something, after hard work and determination, will they know we are proud of them if the festivities don't measure up to 8th grade graduation?