I did not have a fifth-grade graduation because elementary school graduation wasn’t a thing back in the ’80s.
But apparently it is now.
I first heard of this new trend when I started having kids of my own. My aunt, who teaches elementary school, came to visit me one afternoon and alerted me that graduations are a “big deal” now. When she explained that fifth-grade graduations consisted of little kids wearing tuxedos, wedding dresses, and renting limos to celebrate, I thought it went a little beyond “big.” It all sounded huge, over-the-top, and quite ridiculous. I mean, if I had been in a limousine for my graduation party when I was 11, what would I expect for my high school graduation, for prom, for my wedding?
While I think graduating from any grade is an honor and deserves some recognition for all the hard work involved, I can tell you right now my kids wouldn’t be riding in a luxury vehicle, sporting a ball gown or tux, to an event thrown for them in a fancy restaurant at the tender age of 11. You gotta be kidding me.
I guess I had a graduation party for fifth grade, and by that I mean on my last day of fifth grade, my parents took me to McDonald’s and let me get a Quarter Pounder Value Meal instead of my usual Happy Meal. And I loved it. That, my friends, was a good fucking day, in the life of my 11-year-old self. We then went out for ice cream, where my mother declared she was not making dinner that night. We played outside and caught fireflies instead of eating peas and meatloaf at the table. It was pure bliss.
I realize times have changed and I am showing my age here, but I can’t help but feel everything has turned into a huge ordeal for families.
We don’t just sign our kids up for sports through the school. We send them off to camps and purchase private lessons so they can get ahead.
We don’t just have school dances. We have elaborate promposals, buy expensive clothing, and hire professional photographers to capture the moment.
We don’t just slap a checkered tablecloth down on the picnic table, grill up some dogs, and call it a graduation party. We rent out lavish halls, reserve fancy cars, and dress up little kids like they are going to be on the set of Dynasty.
I am a believer in doing your own thing, but I also think we are putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves, our schools, and especially our children when we seek to glamorize every single little thing.
We are sending the message that everything always has to be more, better, elaborate, expensive. And in doing this, are we losing the magic that happens in those moments that aren’t planned out? Are we sabotaging memories that could be made with a much simpler celebration that doesn’t exhaust everyone? Are we making others who can’t afford these extras feel less-than or like they should be doing more, even if it’s not their style?
Yes, I think so. I am not afraid to say it. I do believe certain things in life should be celebrated the way we see fit, and they matter because of who we are surrounded by. And if it is easy and fulfilling for you to throw a raging party for your child’s kindergarten graduation, then by all means.
But if it causes stress and a feeling of resentment, and your kids start complaining that Tommy has it way better than them because there was valet parking and and several clowns passing out balloon animals and juggling at his birthday party, then I say stop the madness. Don’t do it. These milestones are supposed to be celebrated, yes, but you know what else they are supposed to be? Fun.
So let’s not lose the focus, and the fun, in the madness to keep up. I’m saying “nope” to wedding-style celebrations for every milestone because I can’t afford it and I don’t want to do it.