Graduation a bittersweet celebration of change

On Saturday, my son, Wheeler, graduated from Carson High School. Wooo-hoo!

It was an Olympic moment on Saturday as boys in blue and girls in white paraded in pairs around the Carson High School track, smiling and waving at family and friends, basking in the sunshine of graduation day and their achievements.

The lump in my throat came as I looked for Wheeler and his friends, and discovered the young adults who have emerged from the little kids I knew.

Wheeler is, as they say, a lifelong resident of Carson City. He started at Kids Klub with Judy Holloway at the community center when he was 4. He kindergartened with Kay Glanzman at Fremont Elementary. He was in the charter class of multi-age with Cheryl Seaman for first and second grades. This early start propelled him through Fremont, through Carson Middle School, and into Carson High School. There he discovered aptitudes for language and social studies, and the love of welding.

It's not often - perhaps not often enough - that we take the time to celebrate the good things in life. Yes, the success resulting from struggle and the quest to achieve are sweeter because of the hardship and endurance, but the chance to celebrate these young people seemed long overdue.

The celebration is more than credits earned, proficiencies proven, and projects presented. It is a celebration of coming of age, becoming a (young) grown-up. We adults root for them as they seek their fortunes and discover who they are and what they want to be.

Graduation is also a bittersweet celebration of change. Parents measured time in kid-years. "B.W." is before Wheeler. "Fifth grade" is code for 1998-1999, and easier to remember.

High school graduation is a point of departure and a line in the sand.. Whether your child stays in Carson or studies in Argentina, parents and students will remember June 10, 2006 as the day when your child stepped over the line and into the world. Our children are now young adults.

Being a parent is the hardest job there is, even at the best of times. As the parent of an only child, there's no practice and no do-overs. You don't learn from your mistakes; you move on to the next one. That's why it was comforting to hear one of the student graduation speakers thanking parents and family members for cheering their kids on, literally and figuratively, and for supporting them from toddler to teen.

As a parent of a graduate, here's what I'd say to my son: Every day, I am thankful for you in my life. Thank you for the rocking-chair years, the cuddling and bedtime stories, the comforting rhythm of "Goodnight Moon." Thank you for the lizard years, for teaching me to love (some) animals, and for teaching me to love (most) cats, especially Angel. And thanks for "The Simpsons" years, for your keenly developed sense of humor and your quick wit. Most of all, thank you for being you, your own man.

While parents stand back and give their kids the room to practice flying solo, we look to the future. My hope is that Wheeler always has an open mind and an open heart, and is happy, healthy and safe.

As he and his classmates strode confidently around the track at graduation, I was moved to tears by what they have already become, and for the promising and unseen future ahead.

• Abby Johnson is a resident of Carson City and a part-time resident of Baker. She consults on community development and nuclear waste issues. Her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her clients.


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