Our little camper, in a shot from two summers ago...
It's the end of the school year all across America, and graduates are going off into the cold, cruel world to show everyone what they've learned. Some of us who vaguely remember our own graduation ceremonies are hard pressed to keep from blurting out harsh truths about these rites of passage... truths no one really needs to hear from cranky old curmudgeons, even though they seem to be begging for a reality check with every cap and gown commencement gathering.
If I had to address a group of graduates today, I'd probably tell them to get ready for the world's worst roller coaster ride. That sign at the gate that reads, "You must be THIS tall to enter this ride" should read, "You're about to find out how little that diploma means to corporate America!". Or maybe, "Good luck paying off that student loan on the wages your degree will earn!" I'd probably add, "Your graduation year will only serve to mark you as an old person in the eyes of your own kids some day soon, so get over yourselves."
Which explains why no one asks me to give commencement addresses to happy, fresh faced graduates.
Here at Chateau Squatlo, we've got our own little graduate to deal with on a daily basis. Sarah's class is entering the sixth grade next year, and many of her current classmates and friends are opting to enter middle schools across town, while she will stay at this school for sixth grade next fall. Yesterday was the last full day of school, and apparently I was unaware that this would entail a certain amount of emotional upheaval in our niece's circle of friends.
When I pulled in to pick up Sarah from school yesterday afternoon, she came to the car with tear stained face paint. They had had a little celebratory party for the fifth graders, and everyone had gotten painted for the occasion. What I'm told was a great cat face, complete with a black nose and painted on whiskers, was a smeary mess by the time our little diva climbed into the car. When I asked what was wrong, Sarah informed me that all of the girls were crying because it was their last day together at that school, and some of them were even moving out of state. That's when I tossed off a casual remark I was instantly made to regret.
"Oh. Girl drama. Hop in and buckle up."
As she fastened her seat belt, the lecture began.
"That is so stereotypical! Just because the girls were crying doesn't make it 'girl drama'! That's like saying girls have to like pink, and boys have to like blue! Girls play with dolls, and boys play with trucks! It's stereotypical!"
I tried to choke back a smile, then had to admit that my comment had indeed been a tad sexist. I was being glared at by a kid who had (until very recently) been a cat with a black nose and whiskers, which made it harder to ignore the levity of the situation.
"You're right, Sarah. It's wrong of me to assume only the girls were crying because they were emotional. But, lemme ask you something... Were any of the boys crying, too?"
She folded her little arms across her chest, looked straight ahead, and said, "No. But it's still stereotypical!" and frowned.
I had a twenty-five year old flashback to similar discussions I once had with my own daughter, a kid who had led her first classroom revolt at the ripe old age of seven, when in the second grade she refused to participate in classroom discussions because the teacher "was ignoring the girls whenever she asked questions in class"... We had to go to the principle's office to clear up THAT little sit down strike. For the record, my daughter did get a concession from the teacher out of the deal. She agreed to make an effort to involve the girls in more of the discussions in the future, and that seemed to calm my little rebel down for the moment. It was but a sign of things to come... but I digress.
So I weaseled out of my latest verbal gaffe, and took the kid to her piano lesson across town. We're letting her take the summer off from piano lessons, so it was with mutual relief that we pulled out of that parking lot and made our way home for supper.
Ever since Sarah moved in with us a year and a half ago she's been chirping about a sleepover, and for a variety of reasons it's never happened. She wants several of her friends to spend the night, and has been nothing if not relentless about making that desire known. My lovely (and dangerous) wife agrees with me that her little bedroom (with a full size bed) isn't really big enough for four kids doing an overnight thing, but I think we've come up with a solution to our space issue.
I've told Sarah I will put up our tent on our screened back porch, and let the kids have a "camp over", complete with air mattresses, sleeping bags, battery powered lanterns, flashlights, the whole camping out deal. We'll make s'mores, order pizzas, then leave the back door open for bathroom runs, or as an escape route in the event of a bear attack here in suburban Murfreesboro...
She's had two friends confirm for this monumental event, so I guess we're on for a camp over tomorrow night.
And with any luck at all, no one will get overly emotional before their parents pick 'em up on Saturday morning. If that happens, you can bet your butt I won't be the one to make a comment about it.
Last thing I want is to be "stereotypical"...