How to Survive Your Kid’s Graduation

It just dawned on me that at this time last year, I was stressing over what to wear to my son’s college graduation.

And now that it’s over, I can share what I learned so others won’t bog down the same way.

Thus, my Top Ten Suggestions for surviving your son/daughter’s graduation:

1) This isn’t your show.

Your son or daughter has worked extremely hard to reach a pinnacle of success, regardless of whether he attended every class or she made the dean’s list. Your progeny has completed step one of the American Dream — a college education. Even if you wear a gunny sack and saddle shoes, your kid is going to get a diploma. Rejoice!

2) You can’t control the weather.

It might rain. Or snow. And universities sometimes face families directly into a blazing sun. Whatever. Watch the weather forecasts and be prepared. A fold-up rain poncho in your purse, sunglasses and sunscreen, perhaps a jacket — any, or all, might be your friends before the festivities end.

3) Smile and be pleasant.

Chances are, you’ll be meeting some of your kid’s friends. And their families. Or having to see a long-lost “ex.” That might not segue with your mental picture of commencement (having your child all to yourself), but long after college is over, it’s the friendships your kid made that will be most precious. Don’t bring “an attitude.” Be flexible, remember your manners, and go with the flow.

4) Wear comfortable shoes for walking.

Sure, those four-inch sandals are cute, but you’ll be doing a lot of walking. Across campus, up and down stairs. Do you really want to be “that mom” who thumps around barefoot because her feet are killing her halfway through the ceremony?

5) Try your clothing on before leaving home.

Add Spanx for a smoother silhouette. Repair hemlines and buttons. Make sure your red blouse really matches the red in your skirt. Be certain you can walk, sit, and bend over comfortably.

6) Be considerate of others.

You’re not the only parent there to see a son or daughter graduate. Leave the floppy, ginormous hat at home. Don’t pop up and down, waving and hollering at your kid. Don’t block anyone who’s trying to snap a photo. Watch that you don’t spill hot liquids on others.

7) Don’t hog your kid’s free time.

This might be your son or daughter’s last time to “hang” with their friends for a while. For certain, it will be the last time they’ll all be together “footloose and fancy free.” Let them go! They need something to hang onto when Life hands them problems; they need final good memories of their college experience. They don’t need you tagging along.

8) Forget your other responsibilities for a day.

Your kid graduates from undergrad school once. It’s a BIG occasion. Turn your cell phone off, unplug your computer, and be unavailable to the office for a few hours. Get somebody to cover for you. And if you know little siblings can’t behave, get a sitter.

9) Be prepared to work.

Afterwards, your son or daughter might need help moving back home, to another college campus, or to a first job. Be sure you’ve packed clothing suitable for work.

10) Repeat — This isn’t your show.

You’re dealing with a lot of emotions right now. So’s your kid! It’s easy for tempers to flare, feelings to bruise. Don’t let one occasion — major as it might be — ruin a lifetime relationship. Commencement is one day; family is forever. Relax and enjoy the celebration!

Any tips you can add to help grads and their parents?

27 thoughts on “How to Survive Your Kid’s Graduation

  1. Great suggestions! Clothing is a big thing (for any event, really.) Nothing ruins a celebration like ill-fitting clothing or shoes. I went barefoot at our wedding because I couldn’t take the shoes anymore. Should’ve worn sneakers 🙂

    • “Should’ve worn sneakers.” Love this, Janna. As a matter of fact, I did take along a pair of Converse sneakers for Domer’s Commencement festivities. I know, I was one of those idiot moms who *had* to have a pair of cute sandals (ones I’d never worn before) for the occasion. When my feet gave out, I slipped on my sneakers (and I don’t imagine anyone was the wiser, haha!)

    • My dear Professor, you (being a man and all) probably wouldn’t understand, but we women want *everything* to be perfect, so we start stressing early. With commencements scheduled for May, six weeks isn’t near enough time to buy just the right duds!! Duds, I might add, that NO OTHER MOM is going to be wearing that day!

        • Yes, it was a dressy event. Still, I saw a fair share of slip-flops, shorts, Polo shirts, and so forth. Not that it mattered much — the parents weren’t the ones being honored!!

  2. GREAT suggestions, Debbie!

    And you know, even though I am not parent, I can TOTALLY understand this post because I would be same way, I know I would. I think being a parent has got to be the most challenging and rewarding vocation, because you’re so concerned for your child that everything goes well, it’s hard not to get stressed out at a time like this, or even something like a wedding. Like you said, it’s very emotional.

    Love how you finished this post…

    “Don’t let one occasion — major as it might be — ruin a lifetime relationship. Commencement is one day; family is forever. Relax and enjoy the celebration!”

    How right you are!

    Have a super week, dear lady!

    • Ron, thank you for “getting it.” Being a parent is tough enough, without having to worry about embarrassing your kid, too!
      Commencement has a way of putting a parent in an awkward situation. You’re on your child’s turf, for one thing, and with all the emotions flying around, you just know something is poised to spoil the occasion.
      I think parents (especially moms!) stress over this more than their kids do. I know I barely noticed my parents when I was the graduate!

  3. Gosh it’s seems like “we” were just planning your attire for a very special graduation. tempus fugit (I know you appreciate Latin). What great advice. We have a high school graduation this year. 13 kids and very simple. However, I know what I am wearing and my parents are already worried about what they will wear. Fortunately it is inside. It is all about the kids and they have a lot of events planned. Fortunately my Mom will be here and she can fuss over her only child!

    • I do appreciate the Latin — thanks for remembering! And yes, I thought about you when I was writing this, knowing as I do that Cole is graduating this year. I’m sure you’ll ALL be dressed perfectly for the occasion. Inside will help; outdoors is always iffy. It will be very memorable, the stuff of lots of photos. Don’t forget to share some on your blog (seeing as how Cole doesn’t mind appearing on your space!)

  4. I think the advice that “this isn’t your show,” is the most important. No matter what you plan and how you envision the day to be, things probably won’t end up as perfect as you hope. The ability to shake it off and adjust to whatever comes along will go a long way in making the day enjoyable and memorable.

    • Well said, Terri, and I know you know what you’re talking about, having survived commencement several times now! I imagine it’s a lot like weddings and other important occasions — they never turn out exactly as perfect as we hope. And sometimes, that’s not a bad thing, ha! Teaches us to go with the flow.

  5. These are great Debbie; so practical and so thoughtful too – like the no hat suggestion. Ha! But boy have I been there (behind the hat not under it). It dawned on me as I read through them that they would apply as well to your kids’ wedding. To relax and enjoy the celebration, the moment, the people, the love – is what we’ll be so happy we did during and after the fact.

    • Good idea, Barb — these suggestions could be applied to attending one’s kid’s wedding (though I think I’m a LONG way off from that one, ha!). Glad you were able to relate to them. Always nice to see your happy face here!

    • Frankly, I’m sitting on the fence emotionally over this one, Kathy. On the one hand, I’m thrilled to be over the angst of commencement and not knowing all the details surrounding the festivities; on the other, I’m sad at the feeling of something ending, and I really miss having my son so close! I just hope somebody can get some use out of these tips. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Ah, yes, Debbie. These transitions are bittersweet, but soon become the gateway for new milestones to celebrate. Launching a young man into the work world as a contributing member of society is a huge accomplishment. Pat yourself on the back and look forward to new transitions. Hugs, my friend. 🙂

    • I hadn’t thought of that, but you’re spot on, Jann. Thanks for pointing it out. Nothing much worse than not being able to enjoy the sights for nursing sore feet!

  7. Great post, Debbie. You offer such sound advice for parents and the most valuable message of all…”this isn’t your show!” My senior high school students will be graduating later in the spring and I will pass this message on to their parents.

    • Good idea, Pat. I wish somebody had told Domer’s class’s parents that. The way they were running around taking pictures and making a general nuisance of themselves was disruptive and annoying. I suppose more schools should hire a professional to take each kid’s photo so that wouldn’t have to happen!

  8. These are all great tips, Debbie. I especially love the one about wearing comfortable shoes. Boy, did we walk all over campus and not once, but four days in a row. Seemed like there was always some activity going on and it always happened to be on the other side of campus from where we were. Sigh.

    • We had the same problem, Monica. I guess the kids get used to all that walking, (probably doesn’t hurt that they’re wearing sneakers or flip-flops to class). Moms need to remember that cute shoes and sore feet isn’t a good combination — now, if you can find cute shoes that don’t hurt your feet, that’s another story (and I’d welcome somebody telling me what those might be, ha!)

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