Growing up too quickly
Published 10:33 am Thursday, May 28, 2015
May 20, 2015 was one of the most bittersweet days of my life.
That’s when my son Gideon reached the milestone of graduating from sixth grade.
I was a bit weepy as I took photos of the whole class, knowing this exact group would probably never be together again. (My best friend from sixth grade actually lived across the county line; after sixth grade he was forced to attend a different school. Another friend was killed by a drunk driver the summer between sixth and seventh grades.)
I had mixed emotions as I thought of those youngsters starting out with Bob The Builder and Barbie and now studying “how to isolate a variable” (one of Gideon’s most treasured math skills) and Nazi death camps.
I felt melancholy over the unexpected challenges facing this group. When I finished sixth grade, we knew nothing of AIDS, spyware or ISIS. If in 1972 you had told me someday parents would record graduation ceremonies with their phones, I would have wondered how you would keep from tripping over the cord and how you could prevent accidentally recording someone else’s bar mitzvah on a party line.
As I watched those fresh-faced youngsters receive their certificates, I couldn’t help but wonder which of them would eventually encounter ugly divorces, crippling wrecks or bankruptcy. To be fair, some of them may someday find a cure for cancer, write the Great American Novel (if you can write a novel solely with emoticons and ROFL abbreviations) or make the first journey to Mars. But experience has taught me that as the intrepid explorers are strapped into the rocket seat, their jowls pulled back by incredible G-force, the school picture photographer will pop up and shout, “Smile! Gotcha!”
I grew wistful over some of Gideon’s missed opportunities — not making the cut for the school chorus, missing the school dance and the county-wide 4-H public speaking contest because of illness, etc.
But he had those DJ parties, the talent contests (where The Amazing Gideon performed feats of legerdemain), the field trips to see the Nashville Sounds play minor league baseball, the book fairs and many other events to balance it out.
You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have…the facts of life. Facts of life? Another pending speech to get teary-eyed about!
I’m relieved that Gideon has a summer reprieve from those batteries of “teaching to the test” standardized tests, but I dread students someday facing the real world of job interviewers, traffic cops and protective fathers of dates. (“Why, sure, I’m going to ask you only questions that you’ve had time to prepare for — and I’ll give you rewards if you do better the second or third time.”)
If Gideon really does mature greatly before middle school, we’ll miss the miraculous memory-restoring powers of backseat rides to school. (“Oh, yeah, I’m supposed to bring 100 home-made cookies today — and a 17th century…”)
A way of summing up Gideon’s whirlwind educational experience fell into my lap the weekend after graduation.
We were browsing at Books-A-Million. A teensy preschooler was trying to defend his choice of a challenging book to his father.
“But, daaaady, I’ve got to read a man’s book to be a man!”
“They grow up so quickly,” Gideon sighed, within earshot of the father.
Out of the mouths of former babes…
Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.” Danny’s’ weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.