Graduation: Bittersweet End

Last night was MC’s graduation ceremony.

It occurred without this family, including MC himself, in attendance.

I am proud of his decision to not walk, because that decision was based on facts and looking to the future when he has to go off to college and he didn’t want anything to stand in the way of his being able to do that.

For MC, being able to be on campus as required, taking advantage of his scholarships in the process, was more important to him than that big moment, that event. He wasn’t willing to risk his ability to start college and for that I cannot be more proud of him.

At the same time, I’m so sad.

I thought I was fine with it all emotionally. I had no problems at all when he started getting texts from one of his friends that did attend with the latest updates on the event. Mostly updates that just confirmed for MC that he made the right choice (because yes, even though they said masks required, people didn’t wear them, even to hand out the diplomas).

Then I saw the pictures the school posted on their FB page and some of the quotes from the speakers.

It knocked the breath from my lungs seeing the evidence and having the realization that this incredibly important moment is now officially final. There were so many “He’s done! But… ” moments along the way. The last official day of school. The last AP test that happened after that last official day, getting those scores (he aced it, of course) and several other things that kept dragging the whole end of high school out just a little bit more.

He ran by the school the other day and picked up his diploma. It will be the last time he sets foot in that school unless he goes for something of BG’s. There are no more tests. No more grades to wait for.

No special recognition for graduating summa cum laude. No moment of cheering when his name is called or as he walks across the stage.

I’m incredibly sad that I don’t get that moment and that his incredible high school career ended without any kind of fanfare.

Instead, I have all these smaller, more personal moments with him. Our amazingly fun photo session of him in his cap and gown. The one and only time I will get to see him in it. His “last day of school” movie night that he wanted as his celebration. Just Hubby, BG, MC and me. And all of our smaller celebrations along the way of all those accomplishments he worked so hard to achieve.

Instead I get to hear him say that the only recognition he needs for those accomplishments, he’s already gotten in the form of his scholarships. I get to see my son making these incredibly tough, but thoughtful, grown up decisions. Decisions that show the incredible kind of man his is already well on his way to becoming.

As of last night, while we sat at home and listened to him relay the information being texted to him from his friend, my son quietly graduated from high school. I am sad and grieving a bit for those lost moments, but I am more proud than I am sad because I have a phenomenal son.

I’m going to have my sad moment before I suck it up and move on. At least for the next couple of weeks before I’m a mess again after move in day and he becomes a college student instead of just a high school graduate.

Reflections In The Aftermath

And we are done! And I’m am so relieved.

I still have so many conflicting emotions and thoughts about this dance recital and I’ve spent a chunk of the day so far trying to decompress and sort them all out, but I don’t know that it is entirely possible. One of the thoughts that keeps cropping to the top is “Am I going to regret this?”

So much about this event bothered me. Once things started being allowed to open up again and “going back to normal” I had my concerns about how this was going to play out. When they announced the mandatory mask rule and social distancing guidelines for our city, a lot of those concerns were relieved and I felt better about letting BG participate, though I still did not feel great.

The time Hubby, BG and I all spent talking about this and deciding that the risk was low because of those changes and our current area’s case counts seems to have been worthless. We were evaluating the risks based on those changes, but I saw most of those rules completely disregarded and ignored over the course of the last two days.

I don’t want to constantly harp on this stuff, but it is impossible not to. This event was HUGE. The exception the city gave to allow no masks on stage made the rule for backstage pointless, not that it was even observed in the first place.

If you were to only look at the surface of this event, it was a wonderful success and many parents along with studio staff are counting it as such. But you cannot look at it without the lens of the current pandemic in place.

I’m really worried that this will be one of those epicenter events in this city because of the lack of actual adherence to the rules and regulations. I wonder if health department officials saw even a handful of the photos being posted on social media by all these proud parents (and I’m included in that number) what their thoughts would be. Not just on this event, which turns out to have been the very first public event in the city since things started shutting down, but on all future events.

Because from a safe practice standpoint in the middle of a pandemic, I seriously doubt you could count this as a huge success.

There were supposedly people on site that were there to enforce the regulations, but I didn’t see any evidence of that. Two days worth of packed dressing rooms and back stage areas, nearly a thousand kids from pre-K all the way up to high school seniors (spread out between those 5 shows) and dozens of staff and faculty, all passing and interacting in those close quarters for hours, all without masks on, all without any kind of social distancing.

Seeing it for a second day in a row, with even less adherence to those rules the second day, I was really bothered by the whole thing. It felt like a whole lot of lip service being paid to get this approved to happen, but that is all it was. There were zero actions to back those rules up. Especially when you see the massive numbers of photos of students together in groups or with staff, smashing their cheeks together to get those memorable shots, because you just can’t have a recital without those sweet moments (insert maximum sarcasm here).

I just simply do not understand the mindset where any of that is okay right now.

It makes how I felt about BG’s mask stance yesterday even more profound. I debated doing my usual posting of photos and tagging the studio at first. Then I realized that I was worried about how other parents and families might react to all these photos of her and her mask and that by hesitating, I was dishonoring her courage and strength. I was the one having my actions intimidated by the pressure to go with the crowd and I wasn’t going to do that after what BG was able to do. I know we are very much in the minority when it comes to feelings about this event, but I refused to do anything other than stand proudly with my daughter on this, so I posted the hell out of those photos.

At the same time, I think we were just part of the problem and I wonder if I should have taken BG’s stance to heart and just asked her not to participate at all. We did give her the choice, but I wonder if maybe she was just hoping we’d tell her she couldn’t. I loved seeing her dance, but I still don’t know that it was worth it. I just don’t know.

The next several weeks are going to be intense while we wait to see what happens. Numbers don’t lie and infection rates would say that there were, at minimum, at least a large handful people infected in that venue at some point in the last two days, if not a whole lot more. With the number of people in attendance, the number of dancers and all the poor safe practices actually being observed, I worry what the outcome will be. We will be watching our own heath very closely and sticking as close to home as possible while we do so.

Even after this, the studio’s summer workshop is still scheduled to start 3 weeks from now and fall registration begins around then as well. We are NOT at a business as usual point with all of this, but that is how it seems everyone wants to behave.

To top off my level of bittersweet pride in my amazing kids, I have MC. Now that his high school has presented their final plans for an in person graduation ceremony, he has opted not to participate. He will not walk with his class.

Why? He will be at the start of his prep time for attending his college in the fall and he doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardize that process. He is content with the only acknowledgement of his hard work and amazing grades in high school being his scholarship to college. He doesn’t feel the need to do the whole ceremony and walk just because it is the thing that is done.

This is what he wants and it is important to him, so we are absolutely going to stand with him and support that. Even if it means he is the second of my kids I don’t get to see walk across the stage since OC didn’t graduate. I’m still proud that he is, like BG, willing to stick by what he feels is important even if it means it isn’t the popular thing.

I have the most amazing kids and I don’t think it is possible to feel more proud of them both.

Please excuse me if I’m an emotional mess for a while. There are only so many directions those can be pulled at the same time before something has to give. I think I’m just going to go bury my head and have a good cry for a while just to relive the pressure.