Thursday, June 3, 2010

8th grade graduation: what's the big deal?

Today is Queen Teen's last day of Jr High. Tonight is graduation and a celebration here at the house with family and many of the people who have helped her get this far: teachers, therapists, advocates and friends. She has a new, pink and white polka dot dress (so pretty!) and a new white crochet bolero sweater. Family from far away have been sending cards, cash and good wishes. I'm cleaning the house and baking quiche for the party. Only one problem...

Queen Teen doesn't know what the hell is going on.

I've been trying to explain what "8th grade graduation" is for a month.

"Graduation is a ceremony where are all the kids who are in the 8th grade are honored for all their hard work. You get an award and all your family and friends will be there and we'll cheer."

She looked at me slack jawed and blinked.

"Um... we're going to have a party here at the house to celebrate all the hard work you've done. Then we'll go to the high school with the other 8th graders and you'll get your award."

Again, she stared at me, this time scrunching her eyebrows.

"It will be fun. You'll see. Your cousin is coming..."

She smiled at that.

"... and Nana and Uncle Chris and Aunt Margie and Grandpa Bear..."

She giggled.

"We'll all be there to cheer when you get your award for finishing Jr. High."


"Why will we be there?"

"Why do I get a award?"

"Because you worked very hard and are now ready to go to High School."

She sighed. "I don't understand anything."

I've tried this conversation several times. I've looked for books about graduation and found one with Clifford, but it didn't arrive in time. I've looked for movies, but didn't find any she would understand. The problem is that the concept of a graduation is completely foreign to her. We went to her cousin's 8th grade graduation two years ago but we had to leave early because she had a panic attack.

She really doesn't care about all this fuss. What Queen Teen wants is for her days to be normal again. Early release, assemblies, parties and field days at school are annoying. Why all the excitement? All the fuss and rushing around. Everything just needs to be "normal." Then she'll be happy.

Later this morning I'll meet Queen Teen and her O and M teacher, Laura, to check out the location of the graduation and figure out how to get Queen Teen on the platform to accept her certificate. Wheelchair or Walker? One of her classmates, a strong boy who has become a good friend, will help her. But as we're sorting out the details of where she will sit and how she will get her diploma, I'm beginning to have doubts about the whole thing. The ceremony takes place on the football field, just as her cousin's graduation did. Will Queen Teen have a panic attack like she did at her cousin's graduation? Will she be able to sit through the almost 2 hours of speeches and band performances?

Who is this graduation for? Queen Teen, or me?

If it was up to Queen Teen she'd skip the whole thing.

But I want her to experience what a graduation is and accept her certificate, be acknowledged for all her hard work, and soak up some of the accolades that she misses out on.

Again, is that for her, or me?

If it's for me, is that so bad?


Confessions of a Closet Hoarder but you can call me Judy said...

I completely and totally understand your quandary. Our middle daughter is supposed to graduate high school next year. She has a severe social anxiety disorder and a severe general anxiety disorder. And her panic attacks are something to behold. However, after talking with her teacher that she's had for the last 3 years, my husband and I have opted for her not to walk and attend the graduation ceremony. It's not because we don't want to see her take part in the ceremony, but that we know her limitations. Developmentally, she's at about a 1st grade level, and it's just too much for her.

That being said, if Teen Queen isn't showing major signs of stress or panic over the entire thing, I would definitely try to get her to do this. It will be good practice for her, and when she graduates from high school you can remind her how well things went for her 8th grade graduation.

I think it's awesome you're having a party for her and that she has a friend that will be helping her to the stage. I'm betting having her friend right there with her will help tremendously.

I hope it all goes smoothly for you and it is good for both of you! :::hugs:::

Diane said...

It is definitely as much an accomplishment for you as for her. You deserve to celebrate that you supported her to get this far. Congratulations, Super Mom. And congratulations to her for being patient, resilient, brave,and all the other things she's had to do to get here, despite the challenges.

And Congratulations to Rick for his big piece in your family's success. Hugs all around!