Pomp, Circumstance, and a Little Bit of Heartache

Kyle Dyer | @kyle__dyer

Spring is in the air. So too, are mortarboards. It’s graduation season and like so many parents, I am caught in the tug-of-war this milestone represents. The pride and celebration I feel over my eldest daughter, Josie’s, graduation from 8th grade is at war with the grasping, anxious sentiment brought on by the reality of time moving ever-faster forward.

You may say… “it’s only graduation from 8th grade.” Sure, but it is the first big era-ending moment for my daughter… and for me.

 This was a big year for the two of us: Josie was closing a chapter; I was starting a new one.  While she was preparing to leave her school after nine years, I said goodbye to my job of 20 years to start my own business.  

 Launching a new venture was not overly daunting for me, yet the idea of my first-born heading off to high school blew my mind.  I lost an entire day in dozens of albums, selecting the telling ten pictures from birth to present to be included in her class slideshow.

Graduation day was surreal.  I sat up straight at the ceremony, thinking it would make me more attentive and engaged. Despite my efforts, I couldn’t keep the memories and reflection from joining me.

I watched my daughter, in her royal blue cap and gown, stand under the basket in the school gym where she sunk a game-winning shot just a few months prior.

It was in this very gym she’d faced disappointment and defeat but also victory and satisfaction. She learned to play with others and be part of a team. She also gained the confidence to take matters into her own hands and drive towards her goals.

On graduation day, it was clear to me she was again pushing forward both as an individual and as someone who could perform on a team.  She’s ready.

 The author and her daughter, Josie, at 8th grade graduation. 

The author and her daughter, Josie, at 8th grade graduation. 

I’m ready, too,  and I think it’s because of the education I received over the last nine years at Josie’s school. A working mom whose family was 1,600 miles away, I relied heavily on “my village.”  

All of my daughter’s teachers became my partner at one time or another.  I learned from the kindergarten teacher Josie needed glasses. The elementary school teachers helped her cultivate a love of math and social studies, write in cursive, and develop organization skills. The middle school teachers guided Josie as she evolved as a descriptive writer and a critical thinker.   

The other parents became like family and served as incredible role models for me and godsends when it came to carpools. We learned from each other. We supported each other. There is no doubt the parents sitting in that gym helped shaped me into the parent I am today.

Yes, this was Josie’s celebration. But it was mine, too, and one I shared with all of the other parents in the gym. We’d arrived together. I took comfort in knowing many of them--if not all--were experiencing the same emotional tug-of-war I was feeling.   

In two very short years, I will have another 8th grade graduation. In four years (gulp!), we will be facing Josie’s graduation from high school. I am confident my strong girls will be ready. I can’t wait to celebrate those milestones with them, and to see how I grow as a parent. Parents, moms--these are our milestones, too.  Opportunities to look back on what we’ve learned and how far we’ve come in tandem with our kids, in teamwork with teachers and other parents. Looking back and looking forward is hard to do at the same time. Yet it’s the response these moments require of us. Celebration, anticipation, trepidation.  Such is the stuff of pomp, circumstance, and a little bit of heartache.