Elementary School Graduation Is A Milestone I Might Not Survive

We’re so far beyond simple bake sales these days.

Ariela Basson/Scary Mommy; Getty Images

I am scrolling through emails when I see it. In bold, the subject line reads, “4th Grade End Of Year Planning!” — and it hits me like a ton of bricks. I shiver from the top of my head down through my fingertips, a typical reaction for me when big milestone moments are upon me. And today, with the eldest of my four kids graduating from elementary school in a little over a month, I feel overwhelmed. Because while it does feel fun and exciting, the pomp and circumstance of it all coupled with the emotional heaviness might just be too much for me.

Being on the PTO board, I know just how wild and over-the-top this 4th grade planning committee is going to get. I watched last year as they hung balloon arches, curated talent show headshots, and created and installed individualized lawn signs for each student. And I get it: it’s a super fun, exciting, transitional time for these kids and it should be celebrated! But I fear for my calendar and my emotions, both.

First, there’s all the planning and organizing of the events. I’m not talking about a quick little bake sale, here. Those days are long gone. I’m talking about designing and ordering T-shirts, scheduling volunteers, planning day long, city-bound field trips, and ordering catered meals. Planning and executing spirit days with games, entertainment, and snacks. Making event programs, executing teacher gifts, and planning graduation decor. And then there is the end of year performance with signups for set, prop, and costume contributions. It’s a lot!

I mean, once upon a time, when I went to elementary school, the last day was celebrated with a popsicle at recess. Now fast forward a generation, and we have an entire spring dedicated to the graduation celebration. You’d think this was the Met Gala. And while I love the enthusiasm, I am also tired.

While I adore my fourth grader and want to help make his final months at his adorable elementary school feel special, I also have a 7, 5, and 2-year-old with a laundry list of their own needs and scheduled events. Between sports, speech, appointments, and activities, we are booked. And of course I could just bow out of the planning and volunteering piece. But ya’ll know how real that #momguilt is, and how it can really dig its claws deep in moments like these.

But it’s more than that. It’s more than adding more “stuff” to my calendar and my plate — it’s the milestone itself. My first baby is growing up and moving on. He’s leaving this perfectly small and childish place to venture on to something bigger and older.

So when I stressfully shift my schedule to make time for the graduation event decorating, it will be about so much more than installing a balloon arch. It will be about building something for him to walk under in an important moment that represents the ending of something and the beginning of something else. And that is something I have never been good at handling.

So the next time I glance down at my phone and see an end-of-year planning email in my inbox, I will take a deep breath and remember why the whole thing feels so loaded and heavy. I’ll pick up the volunteer tasks that feel right, and skip the ones that don’t. And I will try to remind myself that while I might not be ready for this big change — that my son is. And that is worth celebrating in a big way.

Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.