My daughter is about to graduate from sixth grade. She’s transitioning from elementary school to middle school. Personally, I don’t think this requires a whole lot of fanfare. Maybe there could be a class party, maybe the sixth graders might get a little extra space in the yearbook. Perhaps there could be some sort of assembly.
On my last day of elementary school (in fifth grade), all of the fifth graders were given balloons, and we stood outside and let our balloons go at the same time. Not the most environmentally-friendly tradition, but it seemed sufficiently meaningful and symbolic for the occasion.
Apparently, however, times have changed. Apparently, graduating from the sixth grade now ranks right up there with graduating from medical school. And not just any medical school. Harvard medical school. Imagine all of the celebrating you would do if you were graduating from Harvard medical school. Now double that, and you’d about have the level of celebration that is being bestowed upon the sixth graders in my daughter’s class.
Here are just a sampling of the many exciting ways our sixth graders are being celebrated, for graduating from the sixth grade: a sixth grade dance, a sixth grade play, sixth grade relays (complete with a pie-eating contest and a tug-of-war), a sixth grade essay contest (winning essay to be read at graduation), a sixth-grade dunk tank at the school fair, a sixth-grade vs. faculty softball game, a sixth grade sports and arts awards banquet, sixth grade graduation, a sixth grade graduation party, and a sixth grade video that will be shown at the graduation party, which will showcase pictures of every student as they grew from kindergarten through sixth grade. And while I think it’s lovely that my child is getting to have all of these fun experiences, I’d also like to point out that she is graduating from the sixth grade. I mean, isn’t it kind of a given? Are there really that many kids on the west side of Los Angeles who don’t manage to pass sixth grade?
The other thing that’s totally insane is the sheer number of hours being put into all of these events by the way over-qualified mothers of our soon-to-be-graduates. I’m talking about investment bankers, lawyers, doctors, real estate agents, and business owners, women with multiple degrees from some of the best colleges and universities in the world, who, together, could easily run a small country. But rather than propping up, say, the GDP of Lithuania, they’re spending all of their non-working moments sorting through photographs, in order to make sure that there’s a picture of every single kid from second grade biography day. It’s crazy town, folks.
I, for one, am a co-chair of the pie-eating contest, and almost spent a ridiculous amount of time scouring the internet for a trophy specific to pie eating, and debating with my other co-chair the ratio of crumbled Oreos to whipped-cream that should be in each pie. But then we looked at each other and were like, are we seriously spending more than five minutes on a pie-eating contest for sixth graders? So we ditched the Oreos all together and bought a pie bake-off trophy, and if anyone complains they can suck it.
Because really, we are not helping our children by celebrating the crap out of every single minor accomplishment in life. It’s no wonder that young adults today complain that adulthood is a depressing letdown. Why wouldn’t it be when things like sixth grade graduation are feted like the Queen’s Jubilee? Nobody’s doing pie-eating contests or making videos when you get your first job, or when you close your first deal. These kids will be lucky if their baby showers one day are even half as nice as the sixth grade graduation party that’s being planned for them.
Of course, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t acknowledge milestones or mark transitions. My daughter has had a great experience at her school; I wouldn’t trade it for the world, and I’m sad that she’s moving on.
But keeping it in perspective is important, too. And so is managing expectations. Because while all of this sixth grade stuff is super-fun and awesome, I would hate for her to be disappointed if all she gets for her high school graduation is a diploma and a nice pen.