I’m not looking to scare you, but you need to start saving your money. It might seem like you have all the time in the world right now, but before you know it, May is going to arrive again. Like death and taxes, no one escapes the next round of graduations.
I’ve written several different pieces on school graduations over the years, all of them tinged with gratitude and hope. It’s easy to get sentimental in April, when time and a keyboard stand between me and the reality of graduation season.
Because that’s what it’s become: a season. Graduation invitations blight my wall calendar for these two months like so many cancer cells. Sure, I’m always excited for a few of them. If you’re reading this and sent me an invitation, I’m obviously excited for yours! It’s those others that are the inconvenience.
I think what bothers me is that we’ve turned everything into a graduation ceremony. It used to be that these ceremonies were reserved for colleges, a clear demarcation between the apprenticeship of our youth and our adult entry into working society. Now I have to schedule time on a Saturday afternoon for my cocker spaniel’s obedience school ceremony (she’s still a few credits short, but they agreed to let her walk).
I blame the proliferation of graduation ceremonies on the Merriam Webster dictionary. It defines graduate as “to mark with degrees of measurement” and graduation as “a mark on an instrument or vessel indicating degrees or quantity.” This is far too vague for a society that claps itself on the back so much we might cough up a lung. With a bar that low, each empty milk carton deserves a diploma.
I’m not a neanderthal, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. I’m happy to attend college and high school graduations, mostly because they represent a level of genuine achievement and sweat equity. Heck, I’ll even abide a middle school graduation or two because getting through puberty deserves a medal of some kind; however, it’s the parents who should be getting them on the stage.
It’s the preschool, kindergarten and elementary school graduations that are out of hand. These ceremonies are cute in the same way successful potty training is cute; both should come with a sense of quiet relief and celebration, but you don’t need guests clapping at the results. What graduation gift is one expected to give to the preschooler who finally gets to run screaming from the tyranny of the classroom? Did Dr. Seuss get around to writing “Oh, The Places You Can’t Spell”?
What I find truly invasive is how many parents send out a graduation “announcement” to people they know have little interest in their child as it is. You might as well rattle a cup outside my window. It’s gotten so people fear even sending a congratulatory card lest they be judged if there’s not cash or a check falling out of it when opened. They needn’t be worried because a 2014 nationwide survey found that most American parents spend $985 on graduation parties.
When did a graduation call for an announcement, anyway? The only mail that mentioned my graduation was a voucher booklet for my student loans. An invitation to a graduation is a burden at best. It’s an opportunity to travel long distances to spot your nephew in a dress with something taped to his hat while someone mispronounces names for about an hour.
The hangover from graduation season lasts all summer long, so all I can say is that I better see you at my dog’s next advancement ceremony. In lieu of presents, we’re asking that you make a donation to the ASPCA. (You did save up for this, right?)
You can read more at RobertFWalsh.com, contact him at RobertFWalshMail@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @RobertFWalsh.