Saturday, May 11, 2013

Of Graduations and Receptions

Ahh, graduation season.  As a teacher, I love graduation season, as it symbolizes the closing of a school year, the promise of summertime to come.  Some years, graduation is a very welcome rite, when students are ushered from the halls and classrooms of the school with great relief.  (Theirs AND ours!)  Other years, graduation is bittersweet: we've watched students grow and learn, fail and succeed, and in all reality, they have become my friends.

(Warning:  The rest of this post contains a little cynicism and sarcasm.  Readers should proceed at their own risk.)  :)
But along with graduation comes the ever-present reception.  From a teacher's perspective, receptions provide an interesting situation.  We get many invitations from students to their graduation parties.  Do we try to go to all of them?  Do we just pick and choose which ones we want to attend?  Is that based on who the student is?  Who the parents are?  Who is going to be serving the best food?  So many decisions.  I know a teacher, and in fact, it was me for a while, who approached the reception dilemma by saying if he couldn't go to all of the receptions, he wasn't going to any of them.  Very fair in a lot of ways.  
Yet I know it means a great deal to many students to see their teachers on their "home turf".  Parents appreciate it too.  
Parents put an amazing amount of work into receptions any more.  Way back in the day, graduation receptions consisted of various drinks, a cake, nuts, mints (if you were lucky to have someone make them for you!), maybe some cold cut sandwiches, and a bowl of chips.  If the graduate was a girl, she may have kept a scrapbook that could be put out by the guest book.  The senior picture would be prominently displayed as well.  That would be it.  Sweet, simple, nice, and neat!  I remember my graduation, our biggest concern was that it might rain (it didn't) since we lived in the country and our reception was in our new garage.  Oh, and when it started to warm up during the day, we hoped the cream cheese mints my aunt had made would hold their shape. (They did.)  
I am blown away by receptions now days.  Reception halls are rented, caterers are booked, coffee shops are rented out, party-planner/decorators are hired, presentation boards are loaded with pictures, memory videos play.  Now, I know there are good reasons for some of these things.  Sometimes houses are too small to host gatherings (one of my sisters was in this situation), or the family lives a good distance from the school (a different sister was in this situation).  Some students achieve such great things you can't HELP but brag them up through their pictures and mementos (not even going to try to name them all).  And you know, sometimes families truly enjoy putting on a party, and having a chocolate fountain for their only daughter's graduation party makes perfect sense at the time.  Ask me about that one sometime.  The reception at Tom and Mary's truly is a funny story that we still laugh about today.       
But really, I start to wonder after a while, are these parties for the kids, or for the parents?  Re-doing the house, re-landscaping the yard, all the planning and stressing and worrying and work: do parents enjoy this?  And this is for high school graduation?  I don't know about you - but throwing this big of a party for an event that kind of seems like it ought to be expected of students these  I don't know.  Yes, for some students, high school graduation IS a big deal, it IS the culmination of hard work and overcoming obstacles.  But, don't we still expect them to work hard and overcome obstacles for the rest of their lives?  Having a party like this when a person is 17 years old, I wonder about the sense of entitlement some kids develop for other events in their lives.  Like weddings.  But that's another post for another day.  
I've been pondering these things for some time.  And I figured it was safe to post this this morning, as I am heading to the first two receptions of my graduation season later today.  I love my friends.  I love their children.  I am proud of all them.  And I pray for God's continued guidance and blessings on them all the days of their lives.  
The kids and the parents.  


  1. Oh my. I've wondered these very same things about children's birthday parties! If, for their 7th birthday, we are taking their entire class to a bounce-o-rama and sending each of the 18 kiddos home with treat bags stuffed with plastic junk and buying them every birthday present they asked for...what are we then setting ourselves up for when it comes to later birthdays? Hmm. I sense a new blog post coming on...

    Enjoy your celebrations with your students and their parents! There is no greater gift we can give than that of prayer. :)

  2. Your birthday party comparison is so true Jenny! I definitely see great similarities in what each of us said. Thanks for commenting!