Graduation is tomorrow, Thursday night, for this year's eighth graders at the William Annin Middle School, and on Friday night for seniors leaving Ridge High School following a high school career that undoubtedly will leave its mark, hopefully mostly for the best.
As I write this, neighboring high school students in the Somerset Hills School District, who graduated from Bernards High Wednesday night, probably already are in possession of their newly minted high school diplomas.
And then there's the college degrees that some of our children may have just received...
I've been through all three of those graduation ceremonies at least once, sitting twice through very steamy graduations at William Annin, (BTW guys, great idea to move the eighth grade graduation on Thursday to the more air-conditioned Ridge PAC — but you might want to consider doing it every year!) each of those times with at least some tears in my eyes and emotions close to the surface.
But, I must say, of the three, the Ridge High School graduation was the most profound.
To some extent, after the William Annin graduation, I was just happy that my students were moving on to high school. No matter how Ridge students may complain sometimes, the high school creates many new opportunities for its attendees and makes them (sorry, guys) less dorky than they were in middle school.
And during college — although they are not quite there yet — your child already has taken significant steps into adulthood even if they didn't live away on campus. You're proud, but mostly proud of what they accomplished.
However, high school graduation isn't ONLY a graduation from four years at Ridge, Bernards High, or wherever.
It's the final step (warning: those who don't want to hear me indulge in some sentimentality should click off here) in the journey that began with that first walk to the kindergarten door, where you dropped off your baby, or at least your preschooler.
It's all the wonderful experiences you've had, and people you've met through your child's school and group of school friends. It's the (perhaps unexpected) horrible moments you thought you might not get through.
And it's — let's face it — a very deep sigh of relief.
What happens from here? Do you give your son or daughter advice before or after they head off to Project Graduation (hopefully) after Ridge's graduation on Friday night, and share what should be a drug and alcohol-free final get-together with a good number of their peers?
Do you talk to them about how you felt after graduation, if you even remember? Do you think they even want to hear how you felt, or the ways you developed to deal with the uncertainty of life after you emerged from the lengthy cocoon of being a K-12 student?
And students — is this a time for a heartfelt conversation with parents? Or do you just want time to spread your wings — and maybe have that deeper discussion when you have a better idea of where you are heading?
One thing you/they can count on. Those high school bonds are stronger than graduating students may think after their initial flight from the nest! The friends you made at your high school will be there for you in years to come, even if it takes some time to circle back.