You can learn a lot from sitting in the back of an elementary school auditorium. If you pay attention, you can make a whole lot of interesting observations. Today was my stepdaughter’s graduation from 6th grade. Not a tremendous milestone, in the scheme of things, but very important to her. It was a rather long and drawn out ceremony, with numerous musical numbers by kids. But I sat back, relaxed, and made some mental notes.
The most significant observation I made was that my stepdaughter, Sunni, seemed invisible. Her tiny frame and wispy manner caused her to glide into the room with the procession, barely noticeable to anyone but us, her parents. While the entire group sang, my husband and I had to reposition ourselves to even find her. The photo my husband finally caught had a small portion of her head. Yes, yes…if you looked closely it was her. Privately, I wondered… was she always this hidden from the world?
Then the awards began. First there were presidential fitness awards. Names were called, but not Sunni’s. There were attendance awards, citizenship awards, and outstanding academics awards. Names were called, but not Sunni’s. Special musical numbers were performed. Instrument solos. Vocal duets. But Sunni wasn’t involved. How I wished that she’d had some kind of opportunity to shine on this occasion. She was a wonderful artist, a good athlete, and played the piano. Instead, she quietly faded into the crowd.
I observed that one particular girl received numerous awards, with only faint applause each time her name was called. When the ceremony was over, I saw her clutching her awards, standing alone in the corner as people ate cake. I wondered, did that girl’s parents actually not attend this event? She had worked hard in school, passed the fitness tests, tried her best to achieve, and nobody bothered to show up for her moment of glory? There had to be a good excuse, I thought. Then again, is there any excuse good enough?
I noticed, to my great delight, that the special needs children were treated with dignity and respect. There was thunderous applause as a young boy with cerebral palsy received his diploma. Another special education student was honored with an award for getting to have lunch with the governor. I found myself touched and a little tearful. The school’s special education teacher, who was only referred to by her name and never called by that title (which I thought was appropriate, so as not to set apart her students), gave each of her students awards, where they had the opportunity to stand individually and hear the crowd cheer. It was done in a way that seemed very respectable and not patronizing. I was pleased with what I saw.
“Let them eat cake!”
As they called out names for diplomas, Sunni’s name was finally heard over the loud speaker. “WOOO HOOOOO!” I cried. “Alright Sunni!” I clapped so loud my hands stung. A few heads in the crowd turned to see the nutty mom making all the racket. But it mattered to me that Sunni heard me. I wanted her to know her parents were there in the crowd to cheer her on. We didn’t care about whether or not she’d won any award, but whether she ultimately felt proud of herself. She faced some real challenges battling her Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder this year. But she had pulled through. She was far from invisible–a shining star in our eyes. I do worry about her ADHD as she enters middle school. Will she be lost in the shuffle? Will she drown in the school work?
I had to push the thoughts away as I squeezed through the crowd to find her. Today was a day for cake, claps and hugs. I would worry tomorrow.
Or…maybe at the end of a long, relaxing summer.
Kristyn Crow is the author of this blog. Visit her website by clicking here.