About a week-and-a-half ago, my oldest child graduated from high school. There was all kinds of pomp and circumstance, including but not limited to:
hootin’ n hollerin’
more hootin’ n hollerin’
yelling and screaming as if at a Friday night football game
a few more air horns
I was waiting for someone to release a greased pig.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
As the seven of us sat there in our Sunday best, waiting for the graduates to enter the auditorium and feeling somewhat overdressed, I kept telling myself, “I will not cry. I can not cry. She isn’t leaving today, she’s only graduating from high school, and that isn’t that big of an accomplishment. ” No matter how many times I told myself these things, however, I could feel the tears trying to escape, because, you know, even if it isn’t that big of an accomplishment to graduate from public high school these days, it’s significant. It’s significant because it means she is officially leaving for real in just a couple of months. She’s been accepted to her university of choice, she’s gotten a full-tuition scholarship, and here she was graduating for heaven’s sake, which means she would be free to use that scholarship to go to that university.
But we sat there waiting for so long that the tears finally dried up before they could escape. I think the settled in my feet. The boys and I played several games of Trivia Crack, my feet started to swell, and I spent so much time trying to not overhear the very loud conversations of the people seated behind me that I was feeling pretty safe from the crying.
Then the graduates started coming in. Is there an official term for that? Procession, maybe? The procession of graduates commenced? Whatever. They started walking in, two-by-two, while the band played whatever they play for the procession, and I saw A~, and the tears threatened to come again. Not just tears, though. You know those huge sobs that originate somewhere around your toes and well up until they catch in your throat before they just heave their way out of your mouth? Those were welling up inside of me. One got as far as my throat where it mercifully caught, thereby giving me the upper hand in the battle of middle-class mom decorum vs. Jerry Springer hysterics (those things are still different, right?).
“You cannot do this. People will think you are crazy. They aren’t even handing out the diplomas yet. Get it under control and just weep a bit in a dignified manner when she gets her diploma. DO. NOT. CRY. NOW. DO. NOT. CRY. NOW.”
I talked myself off the ledge and somehow held in that sob that would have, undoubtedly, sounded like the wailing of a professional Polynesian mourner, then I settled in to listen to all of the gradation speakers.
OH. my. word! First, some back story:
About 70 years ago this one-horse town had one high school; but it was apparently approaching two-horse town status, and somebody, everybody, who knows, decided they needed two high schools. And so, they went from one high school to two. Which high school one attended was determined by a boundary that dived the east half of the town from the west half of the town. A couple of years ago, the current superintendent decided it would be better for the district, better for the community, better for the entire planet, if the two high schools were merged back into one high school. This year was his year of glory. This year the merger occurred. This year there was one high school, one graduating class, and a whole dang lot of stupid graduation speeches about it all.
I am not even kidding when I tell you that the superintendent told the graduates they are the greatest graduating class in the nation this year because they survived the merger.
The student speakers were students who were chosen by a class vote, and two out of the three of them basically said, “Oh my gosh! It’s been, like, so hard! I was soooo unhappy about the merger because, oh my gosh! They’ve thrown so many changes at us since kindergarten! And one more change? How could they do that to us? In our senior year? Like, don’t we just deserve a break? We have, like, learned so much resiliency, and we’re all better people because of this merger even though, you know, I totally thought it was going to be so awful. And, I mean, it was awful in some ways? But now? I have, like, all these new friends, and, oh my gosh! We did it!”
As if the student speeches weren’t bad enough, we then had to listen to the administration blather on about how resilient, determined, mature, fantastic, stupendous, adaptable, long-suffering and incredibly amazing the class of 2015, the first ever graduating class of one, unified high school (nice how they ignore local history) is because, you know, they had to give up their school colors and school mascots and embrace new ones. The horror! The HORROR! But they did it with such grace and aplomb, and they’ve made it through the entire school year alive and relatively unmedicated, and . . . ok, I made up the part about them saying the kids were relatively unmedicated. But people! You would have thought that superintendent was running for public office or something given the way he went on about how unmeltable all those 2015 snowflakes were this year and given the way he kept patting himself on the back for the success of his merger. I’m surprised he could shake hands with all those kids as they got their diplomas. I figured his arms would have been too tired.
So, speaking of finally handing out the diplomas . . . By the time we got to that part of the graduation (you know, the most important part), I’d heard the word merger 1,000 too many times and heard the virtues of the class extolled for surviving it about 10,000 too many times, and my feet were firmly swollen in my hip waders, and I was so done with the whole thing that it never occurred to me to cry when my daughter walked across the stage to get her diploma. Luckily it occurred to me to snap a picture or two, but then I just. wanted. out of there. The speeches offended my sensibilities, and the hootin’ n hollerin’ and air horns offended my senses.
I walked out of that graduation feeling less a member of this community than I did the day we moved in and feeling acutely that my daughter had just graduated from the wrong high school. We were in a very good school district back before all of this moving nonsense of the past seven years (seven years — I should be over it by now, but I’m not), and that is the high school from which she should have graduated. That is a community of which I feel a part. So the tears came back, but not because my daughter had graduated, was growing up, was one step closer to leaving me. The tears came back because I felt like we’d failed her, and I felt so very, very lonely fighting my way through those throngs of air-horn toting people.
But I fought those tears back, too, because I didn’t want to have to explain all of that to my family. Rather than give in to the despondency of the moment, I turned to L~ with a grin on my face and said, “I am so, so sorry I haven’t had you and your sister in therapy this year! I had no idea how traumatized you all have been by this merger until I heard all those speeches! Do you want me to find you a therapist????”
Spuds, who had been walking just a bit ahead with McH turned to me with wide eyes and said, “Therapy? Who needs therapy? I don’t need therapy! Why do I need therapy!?!?”
I had to explain to him that it was a joke. I had to explain to him why it was a joke. I had to explain to him that we aren’t taking him to a therapist (unless the need arises, but I left that part out). The poor kid has been dragged to various and sundry therapists since as far back as he can remember, and he didn’t like it, doesn’t like it, hates to have people try to talk about his past or make him talk about his past. Funny thing this kid, but I get the sense that he wants to leave his past in the past. Imagine that.
As we were going through the process to bring him home to us, I read several books on parenting hurt children. One of them, written by a couple of people with Ph. D. after their names who are experts in the fields of child development and parenting hurt children, said that talk therapy isn’t helpful for young children because, developmentally, they aren’t at a place where it is helpful. I thought, “Thank you for making sense!” I’m not saying talk therapy will never be helpful for Spuds. But right now? When he doesn’t want to talk about it and doesn’t have the maturity and life experience to put things into some sort of context and understand the implications and effects of the life experiences he has hand? What good will it do? He’s had so many therapists trying to make him talk about his past and choices he’s made because of his past (choices he’s made as a young, hurt child), that I think he feels defined by everything that’s been bad in his life. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s what my GUT diagnosis is telling me. 😉
I talk to him one-on-one every night when I tuck him in. I ask him what the best part of his day was. I ask him if there were any bad parts. I ask him if he has any questions about anything or if he has any concerns. I ask him if there is anything he wants to talk about. He likes these talks. Once, when McH tucked him in and I thought I didn’t need to go into his room because we’d already said our goodnights, he came looking for me so I could tuck him in and we could talk. The talks are pretty surface kid stuff (that’s not necessarily all bad in my book), but a few times he’s opened up just a bit. Not a lot, but a bit. His eyes get “itchy” when this happens. That gives me hope. We haven’t quite finished week four with him, so I’ll take just a little bit of opening up. Hopefully that means he’ll open up more as time goes on. But, like with the food, I don’t want to make it a battle. I want him to talk about things because he wants to talk about them. That’s when it will meaningful to him.
When we finally met back up with A~ after graduation ended, I apologized to her about not having her in therapy to deal with the trauma of the merger.
“That’s a joke! It’s just a joke!” Spuds was quick to tell her. “Nobody is going to therapy!”
So if I learned anything at graduation (other than that it is just one pig short of a scramble, and education really isn’t the main focus of this school district), it’s that I can’t joke about therapy or therapists around my youngest son. Good to know.
Tewt the Newt just wants to make sure I don’t grease him up in two years.