It’s graduation season! And you’ll know this — even if you don’t have kids or know anyone who is graduating — because the stores are inundated with graduation gifts, and flowers and balloons and bouquets made entirely of candy bars.
I am one of the lucky somebodies who actually does have a kid graduating. From kindergarten. I’m not known for being sentimental, so it surprised me how proud I was of my soon-to-be first-grader. The night before, I had let him choose whatever dinner he wanted in celebration (he chose McDonald’s). And he was allowed to go to a pool party after his end-of-year program. So I walked into his performance thinking I was the best parent ever.
There were parents with huge graduation balloons, flowers, and I think I saw one of those candy bar bouquets. I quickly posted a Facebook message to see if I needed to make an impromptu grocery store trip before my kid saw me balloonless and had his entire childhood ruined.
Moms (and dads) were overwhelmingly in agreement: No balloons needed. I wasn’t a horrible parent. Crisis averted.
When did things get so complicated? When did it become expected that every milestone would mean another set of gifts, accolades and party streamers?
Don’t get me wrong; I am exceptionally proud of him and figured letting him pick out some fun stuff to do would be a great way to end the school year. And I admit I didn’t grow up in a time where I was praised for “doing something I should do anyway.” But does constantly providing huge milestone gifts send the right message? Preschool, kindergarten, eighth grade, high school. And let’s not forget, in between we have perfect attendance, honor roll, student of the week, spirit week contests, best attitude. If I bought a gift for each of those, I’d be taking on a second job to pay for gifts and getting a small shed to contain all the toys I bought my little guys for all their accomplishments.
But my Facebook parents came to the rescue with some great ideas. Feeling overwhelmed about getting your kindergartner something for moving on to first grade? Here is what my friends suggested:
- Take him out to dinner — his choice — even if it’s hot dogs or peanut butter and jelly.
- Take her out for ice cream or for her favorite snack, the one you usually say “no” to.
- Plan a sleepover, whether with friends or just family. Bonus points if you set up a tent inside or outside.
- Let her go on a fun gathering, like to a video game arcade or indoor playground.
- Really feel like you need to buy a gift? Get a small graduation-themed stuffed animal or an educational toy. (Pick something that won’t annoy you later. Trust me on this one.)
At the end of the day, it’s really a personal choice what you do for your child’s graduation. But showing up empty-handed doesn’t make you a bad person.
And when you see your child search for your face in the audience and see the expression when they finally find you and sneak in a quick wave even though they’re supposed to be doing the hand movements to “You are my sunshine,” you’ll know that just being there is enough.