Sitting in the bleachers, watching families filter in with balloons, leis, and flowers, among other gifts, was seemingly overwhelming. What it must feel like to be their children, or to be a part of their family. Families that go all out for the milestones in life always have me wondering where I am going wrong. Watching families share in their excitement for this moment, was like sitting in the movie theater watching a plot unfold. How must I look sitting shoulder to shoulder with these parents? Perhaps, I am just overthinking this.

My fourth child, my baby, my youngest, was graduating eighth grade tonight, or as they like to call it now, a promotion. Observing the commotion in the gymnasium brought a hush to my mind, a faint whisper in the back of my mind. Inadequate. I was the mom with no gifts, no balloons, no leis, and certainly no flowers. I failed in realizing that this was supposed to be a huge celebration for my daughter. Where the hell was that memo? I, apparently did not get it.

Children scurried around trying to find their places and searching out their families in the bleachers. I suppose it is easy to find screeching families hollering out your name. This is obviously not my style. I had planned on just relaxing and enjoying that moment when my child would get her “promotion” to high school. I was not aware that this needed to be a loud event or I might have brought my pom poms. Am I such an awful parent for not wanting to cause an enormous scene? It could just be that this is my fourth rodeo. Fourth and last, shouldn’t this be the reason I would be freaking out like all of the other families?

There is nothing like watching this production to make a mom feel less than the dust on the floor. As if this wasn’t enough for me to feel disappointment in myself, let us add the award ceremony to the list of inadequacies. Oh yes my friends, I had that camera out ready for pictures and videos. Citizenship awards first. Of course, you must video the entire list of kids just in case your kiddo is called. There I was, sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to hear my daughter’s name. When her name never came my heart was crushed, but it’s ok, I thought, no one around me knew if my child was one that was awarded or not.

A/B honor roll awards were next. I knew for sure that she was receiving this award. Again, I videoed the entire list of kids and my child was not called upon. I looked at my boyfriend with a dismayed look on my face. He acknowledged that one of her B’s just dropped to a C. Oh, I did not know. I guess that what I get for working more than seeing my child, and keeping up with her school career. Ask me how small I felt at this point.

By now, I could have just sunk lower and lower, less shoulder to shoulder. What had come over me? I really was not enjoying this. Please have more and more awards that my kid was not receiving. Then, the Principle’s award came, one boy and one girl would receive this award. Listening to the Principle’s speech was too much. I just tuned it out. Seeking out other parents in the bleachers that might appear to feel the way I did was the only thing I could think to do to make myself feel better.

I did not have to look too far. To the right of my boyfriend sat a single mom and her daughter. As she was entertaining her youngster, she nearly missed it when her son’s name was called for the Principle’s award. When she realized that it was her son who had been chosen, she absolutely came unhitched. She jumped out of her seat, covering her mouth in shock, tears running down her cheek, as she choked out the screams of joy for her son’s accomplishment.

What I should share is the huge honor this award is. This is an award acknowledging compassion, empathy, and concern for all peers and administration. It was at this moment it dawned on me. How could I have not seen it? This mom had nothing tangible to offer her son, like me, no big show stopping bouquets. What she had given and received, from and to, her son was unseen daily. What she provided was guidance, support, and love for a child. You see, it does not matter in a moment what flowers and balloons you give, or how much you hype and scream out your child’s name. What truly matters is who your child becomes, teaching your child to act respectfully, compassionately, and always be tolerant of those around you. To never be ignorant and always make sound and educated choices and decisions. To always abide by the golden rule. Treat others as you would want to be treated.

I know that, for most, this moment is the best they may get with their kids, and perhaps, subconsciously, I know this was a minor milestone for my child. I suddenly felt less inadequate knowing that my child, like hers, was not defined by an award, but rather by what type of person she will grow to be.

I am not inadequate because, I did not come baring gifts to bestow upon a child with many awards under her belt. I am more than adequate because, this race is far from over. My parental adequacy is not measured in my child’s scholarly standings, but in what type of adult she becomes.

Don’t allow yourself to be suckered into the display of perfection club. Allow yourself to understand how vital it is to embrace each moment with your child. Utilize every opportunity as a way to develop your kids into becoming a great human being. Measure your child’s accomplishments through their day to day interaction with their peers, not the awards we hang on our walls.

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