BlogVid-19, Post #2. FOMO/graduation version.

This week we received an email from our county schools superintendent. It read, in part:

Today, I have made the very difficult decision to cancel all traditional high school graduations.  The UNF arena is no longer available and I believe our high schools need to be consistent in how we celebrate the Class of 2020. In addition, COVID-19 could still be a threat into the summer, we simply do not know. Your school will communicate virtual graduation plans as soon as they are finalized….Have a great Friday, and a restful weekend. Stay safe and enjoy your family.

Here’s how many high school seniors interpreted it: Remember how you got measured for your gown? PSYCH! You don’t need it! No walking across the stage for you. You won’t hear anyone using a microphone to announce your scholarly achievements. But maybe we can have a Zoom meeting to give each other virtual high fives!

Mr. Superintendent, sir, your diplomatic skills need work. Do you not have a PR person? Also, there was a comma splice in your missive. I realize you have a lot on your plate, but you should have summoned up a little more sympathy before you made that announcement. Still, the substance of it was valid. Of course graduation needed to be canceled.

Unfortunately, a lot of the students’ parents took as much offense as their kids. A Facebook group called St. Johns County Schools Senior Parents 2020 immediately popped up, and within hours had hundreds of members. They’ve organized a letter-writing campaign demanding that graduation ceremonies be “postponed” rather than canceled. The comments range from, “High school graduation is a milestone, like a child’s first words, first steps, first bike ride without training wheels, etc. I honestly can’t believe you expect us parents to be okay with this!” to “We are left to mourn a huge milestone and you just tucked that bomb in the middle of the email like it is no big deal. Then you end with have a great weekend!?!?” The word ‘devastated’ was used a lot.

I have a high school senior in St. Johns County. She is disappointed. So am I. But it stops there. Parents, your kids are watching you, and gauging your reaction. Traditional graduations last a couple of hours, right? They are loading those two hours with as much or as little significance as you indicate is necessary. And, pro tip: not much is necessary.

Have you not told your kids that life isn’t fair? Damn. Tell them now, for the sake of everyone around them: Life is just not fair. And I’m really trying to hold my fucking tongue here, because it’s truly a sign of privilege that in the midst of one of the worst things to ever happen in this country, you’re complaining because your kid won’t get to wear a gown and bask in the glow of an ovation. Honestly, if I was a single mother in St. Johns County who had just lost her job because of the pandemic and couldn’t pay this month’s rent, I would come key your car.

I feel like Brene Brown saying this, but it’s our job as parents to help our children realize that their accomplishments don’t need public acknowledgement in order to be valued. It’s our job to sit our teenagers down and say, “Honey, this is not going to happen the way we planned. But it’s still going to happen. You are going to graduate. Now, let’s figure out a way to celebrate anyway.” I can think of a dozen cool ways to do that, but parents need to find their way through this. Full disclosure: I asked my kid yesterday what would make her feel better, and she said, “A thousand dollars.” My husband and I looked at each other. “Okay,” we said. That was easy. Do we have a thousand extra dollars? No. But we can make that happen. We’ll save at least a few hundred by not celebrating graduation. Maybe she’ll take it on layaway.

Listen: our kids are entering adulthood in a strange and frightening era. Statistically, they will probably know someone who will get very sick or die from this terrible scourge. Really. Again – it’s not fair. But it’s life.

As for your own disappointment, parents, swallow it, for god’s sake. Cry at night in your pillow about it. Give your kids some time to mourn it – maybe a day or so. Then, move on. The world needs their brightness, their energy, their hopes and dreams of changing the world. Their self-pity – not so much.

31 responses to BlogVid-19, Post #2. FOMO/graduation version.

  1. Christine says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Who are the snowflakes here? The kids will be fine, maybe even be the next greatest generation with the challenges they have ahead of them. My generation surely hasn’t been. I hope you put this on the site of the incensed parents.

    • tricia says:

      I did, but they don’t like it very much : ) Go figure! Thanks, Christine! Hope you and your lovies are healthy and safe.

    • Wendy Lanius says:

      Amen sister! It’s disappointing for all but we have a pandemic going on here, for Pete’s sake!! Agree 100% with you Tricia! ❤️ And Congrats to your beautiful senior!

  2. Patti Peeples says:

    Wow, Tricia….this blog took me on a roller coaster. In the first few paragraphs, I thought you were on the bandwagon of this being a tragedy difficult to overcome. And then, there you were: showing up like the bad-ass, keep the big picture in mind, damn good parent I have come to know you to be.

    My mantra for my son during all of this is: “We can do hard things.” We can. Our hard things are not as hard as others, and we should ALL PAY ATTENTION TO THAT.

    Students, it is hard, but why not rise to the occasion and use this as an opportunity to make this right of passage truly a passage into adulthood with grace, aplomb, and dignity. The stage and the announced name, amongst 250 other ones, is but a mini-moment (hell, it’s not even long enough to be a full moment).

    We can do hard things. All of us.


    • tricia says:

      WE CAN DO HARD THINGS! This will be my new go-to phrase. Sorry I gave you a scare, Patti. Thanks for reading, and for teaching your son what’s important in life.

  3. Jody Steele says:

    You have said every single thing I have been feeling and thinking. Life has its ups and downs. People have had to change wedding plans, some people have had to say goodbye to their love ones via FaceTime, that’s tragic, dying alone. This is sad but that’s ok, there are moments in life that are just plain sad. Thank you for putting into words all of my thoughts and feelings.

    • tricia says:

      You’re welcome, Jody -thanks for reading, and for sharing your perspective. It’s a good one.

      • Laurie says:

        Do not judge the grammar here!! When I started reading I was thinking” oh no where was she going with this” and then u got to it!! Thank you! So important for people to realize this right now. Big picture! What our kids are learning in real time right now about facing uncertainty, dealing with rapid change, resilience, adaptability etc goes way beyond a celebration. I get that it’s a bummer but like you said life ain’t fair and we can do hard things! Thank you!! Can’t wait for the next one!

        • tricia says:

          Thanks, Laurie – hope you and your beautiful fam-jam are staying healthy and safe. xo

  4. Sigrid says:

    Thank you for that – I thought I was the only one thinking like that

    • tricia says:

      Nope! I think lots of us understand the gravity of what’s happening, and the relatively small sacrifices we’re being asked to make. Thanks for reading.

    • tricia says:

      Hi Carolyn! Thanks for reading! Hope you’re staying safe on the Cape!

  5. Kathleen says:

    You certainly put that in perspective! Besides, graduations are pretty boring!

  6. Elaine says:

    Gad! I so miss reading you! You are a sane person in the middle of madness! I get it, and I think that the kids are allowed to be upset… but then, you get over your grief and get out there and do something good! As a pediatrician doing telemedicine these days, trying to keep kids and parents healthy is my priority and mental health is bossy!

    • tricia says:

      Thanks for being a shero, Elaine. Keep fighting the good fight and taking care of our kids.

    • tricia says:

      Thanks for reading, Christine. I’m glad I have a kindred spirit in you.

  7. Sarah says:

    I’ve been puzzled by all the folks who think this Pandemic will be “over in a few months” and then all will return to normal. Maybe that’s how we convince ourselves things aren’t so bad?

    I so clearly remember my Dad saying: ”Nobody ever promised you life would be fair, Babe.” It’s an important lesson.

    • tricia says:

      Your dad sounds pretty special. But then again, so are you. xoxo Miss you in the ‘hood already!

  8. Kelly Hunter says:

    I have never read your blog before and have to say wow! I have a 2020 senior, I work for the school district and am upset about graduation. And I talked to my son about graduation being canceled. He told me “Mom, I am fine,I don’t need all that ceremony stuff to make me happy and feel good. I know I worked hard and did good. As long as I get that paper I am fine.”
    He than went on to tell me how much he has loved being home and wished he did more online learning! He has played baseball all his life and this was his biggest disappointment. I had to pause take a step back and say to myself that the graduation isn’t about what I wanted or perceived in my head how my son “should” like it etc. It is about him and if he is happy about being at home with us and getting a diploma in the mail so he can move on to more things so be it. (I have cried in my pillow more than once). Sorry for the long reply 👊

    • tricia says:

      I love long replies.Your son sounds like a really good egg – and that says a lot about you. Keep on doing what you’re doing, mama. And find those moments of joy amid this chaos.

  9. Deborah Schroth says:

    Tricia, wonderful blog post. As a nation, we’ve had minimal national hardships. Sure, there was 9/11, but for most of us it was a wound to our sense of security. By and large, this pandemic has been the first broad based, equalizing tragedy we’ve faced since WW II. Yes, Vietnam was rough, but it was largely fought by those without privilege.

    The current tragedy brings the opportunity for Americans to come together for the greater good. Many are doing so, and teaching their children important lessons. Thank you for being in that camp.

    Love to you and your fam, especially Scout as she gets ready to fly into the wide world.

    • tricia says:

      So great to hear from you, friend. “Equalizing” is the right word indeed. I’m afraid some people will be in for a rude awakening when they see how this affects their communities. Thanks for being a citizen of the world. xoxo

  10. Anne Marie says:

    Tricia… could not agree more. Shame on us parents for this generation of softies. This is real life and we are disrupted and forced to pivot. Some of these students are going to have a hard time dealing with real life. I think the milestone is more for the parent than the student. Seriously, is it an accomplishment to graduate from high school for most? (All serious issues aside). I EXPECT high school graduation. How about we focus on celebrating higher learning?!

    • tricia says:

      AMEN, SISTER. Thank you for pointing that out. Miss your wise perspective, friend! Stay safe. xoxo

  11. Ned says:

    As along time educator and Head of Schools, I applaud your effort to try to bring a perspective to this situation. I am retired from decades of dealing with these kind of parents and parents like you. Education has always been a cooperative arrangement. Sadly, educators are in a position to teach students the hard things in life despite the parents wanting nothing to be bad or hard in their lives. Perhaps those of us who have lived through many wars with parents and ourselves going to war and living through hardships this generation doesn’t understand, have done a damn poor job of teaching this generation of parents. Sad!! I hope these students will see the light and learn for themselves.

    • tricia says:

      Thank you so much for reading, Ned. I hope so, too. Stay safe!

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