I’m headed to my son’s sports banquet. It’s activity #23 I think of the things his school has lined up for us to do leading up to his 8th grade graduation(OK, I am exaggerating a bit) .
I just want to be done. It’s freaking 8th grade, after all. You know what I got after I graduated 8th grade? Not a damn thing. I don’t even think we called it graduation; we just started summer break, as we had every other summer.
I am all for celebrating accomplishments, especially those of my children; but am I aiming too high if I say that I’m not particularly impressed that my son has completed 8 years of primary schooling? Am I being too arrogant if I say that I was 100% positive that we were going to see this day? Am I too cynical if I say that I don’t consider passing his grammar school courses, and even excelling at most of them, to be a major accomplishment worthy of all of the fanfare that the school and other parents seem to feel is warranted?
Or maybe I’m on to something. Perhaps we don’t need to give our kids a trophy after every game, a certificate after every completion, a party after every small accomplishment, money for helping around the house, or a bribe-gift for behaving well. Sure, I understand that prizes can be motivating (heck, Skittles and gummi bears are responsible for getting both of my boys potty-trained); but I wonder if they can also be handicapping. If we are hosting parties for pre-school, kindergarten and 8th grade graduations, will a high school graduation party be anti-climactic? What do these kids have to strive for?
I think that’s why many kids are always complaining of being bored and seem so unmotivated. They have been given so much for doing so little for so long. They got a medal for simply participating; so why should they train harder, study longer, or push further for 1st place? Can we create kids who are hungry for success if we’ve fed them a constant diet of treats?
I’m not sure, of course, and I don’t have all the answers. I am faking my way through this parenting thing—acting like an expert. But I can confidently say that I am full. I don’t need any more snacks: any more banquets, ceremonies, lunches, or appreciation breakfasts. I don’t need an 8th grade play, Field Day, the awards ceremony, and a dance. I’ve been to a lot of funerals, but getting my son out of 8th grade has been my longest goodbye.
I just don’t think that graduating from 8th grade is particularly meaningful (yes, I know that this means my son is moving on to high school. I’m sorry, I don’t feel the need to rush out to Party City). But even if I did, does meaningful have to signify “more”—more stuff, more events? When it comes to celebrations, I feel that many view it the same way they do restaurants: if it ain’t all you can eat or at least a full jumbo combo platter, we ain’t livin’ right.
My guess is if instead of throwing this huge party for my son after he graduates from 8th grade, I give him a big hug and fix is favorite dinner; he just may still make it through high school too.
My intention is for Black people to love themselves and each other. It sounds somewhat silly, I guess; but oftentimes my people are overwhelmed with negative images, bad news, and stereotyped characters about us. I’d like to flip that script. I’d like to remind us, as often as I can, how incredible we are. Read more