Do you remember who attended your high school graduation? What about your grade school graduation?
You can’t help but wonder if the graduate will even notice who’s there with all the preparation and excitement of getting ready for graduation. But when you revisit your own memories, you realize you remember and the attention and good wishes made a difference.
Whether you are the parent or just one of the extended family, you should go. Not so that years later they will remember you attended, as you remember who attended yours, but to provide the encouragement a child needs for the next step.
The kids may not thank you for the attention. They may not even recognize their own feelings about it. “Graduation? Don’t worry about it” and “It’s no big deal” are their usual reactions. But in their plans for celebration you can see that it is a big deal.
Even if it’s “only grade school” or “only middle school,” I would argue that your presence is even more important. How are the students to know their learning is being recognized if the important adults in their lives are not there to do the recognizing? The first graduations are events where your support can influence their efforts in later schooling.
I don’t know how many parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles attended each student’s grade school graduation. But if such statistics were available, I bet that on the average, their attendance at grade school and middle school graduations helped some students avoid dropping out before high school graduation.
Teens may feel obligated to give the impression that they are not interested in celebrations and congratulations. So it’s tempting to relax your interest as the teens go through high school and beyond. But as the choices become more voluntary, you need to be even more supportive of what you know is the right direction.
The schools need the support also. Every teacher, principal, and political leader is aware, at least unconsciously, of attendance at school events. Make sure graduation keeps its priority over baseball and football in their minds. Your child’s school, his next school, and your county system need to know you are concerned and you expect fine schools and appreciate fine results.
It was only when my Aunt Manilla came to my way-out-of-town wedding that I brought it all together and realized that she had been at every milestone event of my life. Her presence had always been a part of my motivation for the next effort (I can’t quit now, what will I tell Aunt Manilla?).
Kids are not likely to say, “Gee, I’m really glad you came.” Your student is probably too distracted by all that is going on and not quite mature enough to recognize consciously how much it means. But later, as he or she feels the challenge of the next hurtle, the memory of your presence and encouragement may keep him or her going forward.
Here’s a point in life where Woody Allen’s remark is doubly true, “Eighty percent of life is just showing up.”