Middle School Graduation Night

Tonight, my youngest child is graduating from eighth grade. Although his three siblings already graduated from the same school, I’m still a rookie.
I discovered the meaning of school graduations, proms, winter formals and even school dances with my children. In my native France, I never attended such events. Not because I was excluded from them. They simply didn’t exist.
When my oldest daughter attended her first prom, she was so sure I couldn’t deal with the prep work that she went to a friend to get ready. A piece of my heart broke when I thought of the other mom who would comb her hair, check her outfit but I also understood how embarrassing I had become for my daughter. After all, although corsage and boutonniere are French words, their meanings in English are completely different and in a way, I was relieved to let someone else deal with all the formal steps that led to THE prom.
Her sister, however, involved me in the whole process from shopping to picking a restaurant for her and her date. I enjoyed every minute of it, savoring what I had missed the year before and feeling a little bit more American that night.
My youngest daughter will maybe attend her first prom next year. She hasn’t made her decision yet but I am less stressed now that I have, thanks to her sister, been to my first prom.
Today, though, my heart flutters at the thought of my youngest child leaving the safety of his K to 8 school, because I am in a way turning the page of a chapter of my life too.
Tonight, as my son will stand on stage, holding his diploma with pride and smiling brightly to the audience, I will find the event too ceremonial and a little overwhelming. The pursuit of eternal youth and constant happiness and the importance of school rituals are perhaps what separate the French and Americans the most. Yet, as the night will settle, peaceful and soft, above the students and their families, everything will fall into place, reminding me that I am at home, here in the USA.

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