You Don’t Need Permission To Celebrate

Our son is graduating kindergarten next week. He’s our third and final child and, I’ll be honest, we’ve been savoring all the moments in his life since we know we won’t get to experience them again.

When schools were closed back in March and there was still uncertainty about how long the COVID crisis would last, I told my wife that the kids would not be returning to school this year, no matter what the City government was saying at the time. It was obvious it wouldn’t be going away in a few weeks.  

When I said that, we both realized that this would mean we would miss out on the end of year kindergarten festivities, including his graduation ceremony.

I know it’s only kindergarten and he will have many much more important graduation ceremonies in his future. There is something, though, about the joy that a small child demonstrates during special moments.  

We grieved a bit that we would miss seeing him sing songs with his friends, walk across the stage to accept his diploma, take pictures with his teachers, and take him out to a meal of his choice.

We grieved for a very short time and then got to work.

The fact is we don’t need a school ceremony to make him feel special. We decided we would create our own special day for him to replace what he (and we) would be missing. I recognize that the way we were feeling was probably more about what we would be missing – i.e., watching our baby get lauded – rather than what he would be missing since knowing him he’d rather not get dressed to go to a long ceremony at school.  

The graduation day is next week, and we are prepared. We bought him his own cap and gown, we’re having family over, we’re getting cake, the choice of dinner is up to him, and Mom is making him special items.

We’re making his day special. We know how hard he’s worked this year, particularly since as a December baby he’s in school with some kids who are almost a full year older than he is.

The key is we don’t need to wait for permission to celebrate or rely on the State to create out joy. We’re going to make the day even more special for him than a long-drawn-out ceremony in a hot auditorium could ever be.

To me, this shift in thinking from what could have been to what we will create was key. We could have chosen to focus on the negatives, but instead we turned the situation around and turned it into a positive.

Kids throughout America have been through a traumatic time. They’ve been thrown out of their routines, not been allowed to play in playgrounds, and missed their friends.

Those parents who have done it right have minimized the disruption as much as possible and turned what could have been a bad into a good. I’m inspired when I hear of what some fathers I admire have been doing with their kids.

That has been our goal these last three months. I think we have succeeded. We are closer as a family than ever before. With the normal activities not available to us, we’ve had to get creative. This broke whatever moribund routines we were in and broadened our horizons.  

We’ve created new family traditions. One of the things I most admire about my wife is her ability to create new family traditions seemingly out of thin air. She seems to will new ways of celebrating into existence.

I am grateful for these last few months and, I’ll be honest, I’m dreading the world getting back to normal. We’ll probably never have an opportunity to spend such a sustained period of time together as a family like we’ve had, and I know I will eventually miss it.

Here’s a summary of what I’ve learned once again as we’ve designed my son’s graduation celebration:

  • Don’t rely on school or anyone else to celebrate your children;
  • Get creative;
  • Never stop creating new family traditions; and
  • Find ways to turn negatives into positives.