Milestones

I was reminded that it is graduation season by a facebook post about a cousin getting her MPA. Her proud husband posted a photo as well he should. When you get an advanced degree as an adult your partner/spouse usually has to step up to help make it happen.

All those life details like cooking, shopping and cleaning can seem daunting when you are working and going to school, but they still gotta get done. A co-degree should be awarded to the spouse who could undoubtedly pass a qualifying exam after years of enforced listening on the newly mastered topic.

During my grad years my husband probably could have written a pretty decent essay on Wittgenstein’s Ethics or Charles Berkley’s Uses of Tar Water. Maybe I should test him with a pop-quiz.  Actually, I don’t know if I could even write the quiz at this point given that my day-to-day work has strayed so far from my intended work. But it was still an accomplishment.

I was the first member of my extended family to graduate from college let alone get a Masters Degree. I suspect my little sister went to college in the last 10 years, but I won’t know for sure until after our “get reacquainted” date. Being the first at anything is always dicey, and in my case it was never clear if anyone in my family was happy or proud that I graduated, so the ambiguity led me to skip both my BA & MA graduation ceremonies.

I remember talking with my mom about her attending and getting the impression she thought it would be a major hassle what with the driving and the parking and the waiting through the ceremony. So I skipped it.

My husbands family was prepared to attend, but somehow that made it worse. Maybe because graduating from college was normal, my husbands family had a habit of attending graduation. My family, with no experience of graduation ceremonies, might have been intimidated.  Or maybe they didn’t know it was a kind of a big deal. Maybe I pre-empted their lack of enthusiasm by saying I would skip it. Or maybe my family was just odd.

I think I’ll just go with “odd”.

It’s funny to contrast my experience of graduation to how celebrated our children are in my crunchy suburban neighborhood. Milestones and transitions are public and documented from Pre-School “Graduation” (complete with little gown and mortarboard), to “Moving-Up” assemblies marking the shift from elementary to middle schools, and awards, awards, awards.

As much as I might gripe about the child-centric atmosphere, my kid has ended up with a good sense that we are proud of her accomplishments in all arenas. It’s possible to raise a child with healthy self-esteem despite the media reports of grade inflation and helicopter parents. Parenting trends swing back and forth every few years from things like tiger-mother, attachment parenting (can I just say shudder?), to free-range parenting. My guess is that there is no one best way to parent except to figure it out for yourself. And, if you are smart, you will actively try 1) to love your kid, 2) to like your kid, and 3) role with the punches.

We all do what we can and hope for the best, even my nutty folks. I look forward to recognizing many more milestones in my daughter’s life, not to over compensate because of my past, but because her achievements are the products of her effort and that calls for celebration. And there is that little moment of gratification were my husband and I can say (quietly and to ourselves) “Woo-hoo! We did it! We didn’t screw up our kid!”

And I hear Homer Simpson’s voice in my head adding – “So far!”

books

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