Six hundred parents stood in line on a sticky almost-summer night, as if we were sleeping out for Phish tickets. Once inside the packed gymnasium that felt and smelled exactly like a yoga studio after a 90-minute hot yoga class, we fanned ourselves with light purple programs as 296 teenagers' names were called. (Hold your applause until the end, please.)
Although my middle dude —- now officially a high schooler —- said how lame an eighth grade graduation is, "since everybody has to go to middle school anyway," the ceremony was actually more meaningful than I had anticipated.
While middle school can suck for even the most popular kids, high school can be a pivotal time of growth and change in a young person's life. And even though high school isn't the real world and aren't always the best four years on one's life, those four years can be great if you've decided to take it all in and be awesome.
Eighth grade graduation was a brand-new thing the year I left my middle school. (These were the days before preschool and kindergarten and elementary school graduations, too.) We didn't realize it at the time, but we were about to change —- for the better, I think. Just a few months later, I decided as a high school freshman that I'd no longer worry what the popular people thought. It was so freeing that I wished I had thought of it sooner.
An eighth grade graduation is not as much of a celebration of an accomplishment, but a marking of a new chapter in which you really can reinvent yourself.
While graduation speeches can be pretty predictable, the one given that night by the athletic and well-spoken eighth grade class president had a clear message that resonated with us sweaty parents nodding in agreement up in the top bleachers.
The rising high school freshman told his classmates to "Look at yourselves, and ask the question 'Am I happy with who I am?' If the answer is yes, well then that is great, but you must continue to grow and challenge yourself. On the other hand, if you look at yourself and say that you're not fully happy with who you are, now is the best time to change."
Wise words from a 14-year-old kid, eh? And who says his words should only apply to those sweating in neckties under fluorescent lighting? Even those of us in the cheap seats could use a little motivation every now and then.
Teresa M. Pelham is a freelance writer living in Farmington and is co-blogger for the Courant's Mommy Minute blog. Teresa is author of the children's books "Roxy's Forever Home" and "Roxy and Her Annoying Little Brother, Stuey." For more information, visit www.roxysforeverhome.com.Copyright © 2015, CT Now