High School Graduation. Since the day your son or daughter donned their adorable size 5 cap and gown and marched down the cafeteria aisle to receive their kindergarten diploma and you wept at how old they suddenly were, you’ve anticipated the day with fear and trepidation. And somewhere along the way in the past 13 years you blinked, and here it is.
You’ve likely pondered it many times. How will you cope with the tsunami of emotions? Will you hyperventilate? Will you remain composed (and sober) on the outside, yet numb (and sober) on the inside? And what about all the parties and celebrations? Will you be able to pull your shit together and fool your guests into thinking your mental state is as put together as your house suddenly is?
When I was in your shoes, I questioned all of it, yet despite all my apprehensions, uncertainties, and best-laid plans, I couldn’t have predicted what happened when I was actually in the high school graduation moment. We were rushed, traffic was atrocious, I had a stress-induced gastrointestinal emergency on the way to the ceremony that thankfully didn’t end badly (tip: eat something more than Cheetos and beef jerky the day of the ceremony), and while I’d certainly planned on tears, the instantaneous emotion that contorted my face into a frightening mess when my daughter walked into the arena was startling in its intensity. Ask the family who sat in front of me and I’m sure they’ll agree.
Here are a few of the questions that I imagine are burning their way through your soul as the big day looms closer…and the answers from someone who’s been there.
15 Questions All Moms Ask About High School Graduation
What will I wear?
Most likely, the same damn dress you’ve worn to every choir concert and awards banquet since 2009.
Should I invite extended family to the ceremony?
If you can, you probably should. After all, it took a village to raise this child, so they should be included. But make sure to let them know you’re the only one who gets to speak, hug, or make eye contact with the graduate. Your time with them is limited and everyone else needs to STEP THE HELL OFF.
What’s a generous, thoughtful gift for my graduate?
Plane tickets (and luggage, of course) for you to visit her every month for the next four years.
How much time should we leave for pictures before high school graduation?
Enough for at least 250 (200 of which are of your graduate and her friends making silly faces while jumping in the air). Don’t forget to allow extra time for one or more of the following: humidity that flattens hair and causes panic amongst at least one female in the group (which may or may not be you); pissed off looks from siblings who are so over this day already; an exasperated graduate who’s barking orders at you because she somehow still thinks this day is all about her; a husband who just wants a beer; and a mother-in-law who wants to direct the entire thing.
What essentials should I take with me?
Your camera to snap many blurry, indecipherable photos of your graduate at the ceremony, any anxiety meds you have or that a friend would be kind enough to give to you, an entire box of tissues (don’t even waste your time on the cute little purse packs), and a prayer that you won’t have to be carried out on a stretcher.
Is it wise to eat something before the ceremony?
Yes, but the grapes in a bottle of wine don’t count as food.
Will I really cry as much as I think I will?
Will they be pretty tears?
I’m a bit worried I won’t cry or get as emotional as everyone talks about. Does that make me cold-hearted?
No, that makes you the designated driver.
What goes on immediately after the ceremony?
Five to ten minutes where you will look at your graduate with a crazed smile on your face while shouting the word “congratulations” repeatedly because your panic, confusion, and shock at what the hell just happened prevents you from coming up with anything else.
How do I make sure my other kids don’t feel left out?
You don’t. It’s okay, they’ll matter again in August.
What about the grad party?
Many schools have a school sanctioned all-night party after the high school graduation ceremony, which is chaperoned well so you don’t have to worry. If your child’s school does not, I hear it’s fairly easy to remove the spark plugs from a car so it won’t start.
What final words of advice should I give to my graduate that will be memorable and meaningful?
Anything that comes from the heart, which can include (but is not limited to): the dangers of walking anywhere alone; social media and how it can ruin your life; not ever accepting a drink she didn’t open herself; the importance of sleep; and how sex can kill you.
How will I spend the day after?
Obviously I’m excited, thankful, and proud, but I can’t seem to shake the blues. When will they end?
When you figure that one out, let me know.
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Michelle Newman is a reformed stay-at-home mom to two daughters—one in high school and one in college—who spends most of her days writing about them. She’s had essays published in several humor anthologies as well as on various parenting websites, and is also a Community contributor at EW.com where she gets to write about something other than her kids. Read more of her stories at youremyfavoritetoday.com and follow along on Facebook and Twitter.