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Girls in Pretty Dresses, Awkward Boys in Ties

Minivan Dad

Tall, poised girls in well-fitted dresses walk into the gym. A series of boys of varying sizes amble in, wearing ties and jackets in various combinations. The girls mostly look proud and excited. The boys just look uncomfortable. Yep, it's 8th grade Graduation!

The traditions are all the same. A decent concert band plays "Pomp and Circumstance." Kids make cute speeches. At least one adult speaks a little too long. Ok a lot too long. The names are read. The principal says how special the class is, presents them to the audience, and officially declares them promoted from 8th grade.

It isn't really called a graduation. It's called a promotion ceremony. Ok, then. Little Sister Goalie is going to a different school for 9th grade, so she was calling it a graduation ceremony. As did all the kids. "Promotion" is the word we use instead of "Graduation" to make us feel like we aren't overindulging our kids by giving them awards just for showing up.

I used to scoff at the whole "Graduation" or "Promotion" thing. When we were kids, we used to have an awards assembly at the end of the school year, then we were sent off into summer. The last thing I need to hear is yet another excuse for a new dress and a hair appointment! Or a day that I have to dress "at least half-decently," as Passenger Seat Mom pleads with me on a regular basis. But I've changed my tune. 

Girls are hormonal and moody. It happens overnight. No seriously. Some night during 7th grade, they go to sleep as cute little girls, and when they wake up they have been replaced by raving monsters. Prepare for it all you want, but you will not see it coming, and you are powerless to stop it. 

Boys are just, dumb. They grow. They get silly haircuts. As a father of daughters, they become both my testosterone-making companions and my mortal enemies. I want to strike the fear of God in them, but let's be honest. It's pretty hard to be afraid of a guy who drives a minivan. Even if it is black!

So why did I change my tune? Because any kids who can survive three or four years of school surrounded by other early adolescents deserve medals. They've lived through first boyfriends and girlfriends (and more). They actually have homework. If they're lucky, they have teachers who have expectations of them. If they're really lucky, some who actively and consistently challenge them. They have parents who expect them to do the right thing, and they are presented with plenty of opportunities to screw up. 

So what the hell, why not? When College Kid was promoted from 8th grade, one of our good friends looked at me and asked "How did we get here?" I told him the answer was pretty simple.  We were lucky enough not to have keeled over, and we were smart enough not to strangle our kid the hundreds of times we would have liked to. Don't do either of those things, and there's a good chance to end up standing under a tent wondering where the time went.

It's not so easy for the kids. Middle school stinks. They survived it.

That's at least worth a dress.