Today, as I do every year, I went to my teen son’s small school to watch the 8th Grade graduation ceremony. It is a thoughtful, enjoyable hour or so, where teachers write a little speech about each graduating child and present them with a individually-chosen book according to their interests and personalities. The teachers put good effort into writing their pieces, as much for the parents’ benefit as each child, I think. Some teachers are natural writers and presenters, some not as much, but they all seem to enjoy doing it.

The children’s reactions to being onstage and being feted are another thing. The boys. All looked sheepish and like they wished a massive windstorm would come and whip the podium and all the people right down the street to Burgermaster. I would’ve liked that as well, because it would’ve been absurd. Anyway, some of the boys turned bright red, some fidgeted in their collared shirts and new dress pants, some smiled nervously the whole time, a couple seemed to enjoy the attention. The girls. Some tottering on 4” heels that slipped on their feet, some wearing pants and skate shoes, some crying quietly in their seats after their moment. Braces. Zits. Unformed, but forming fast.

Oh, to be 14. I remember it as the year of the Big See. Life was becoming not so simple, I could no longer breeze my way through everything. Adults were all total idiots, boys were hopeless, I was not a Superstar nor going to be one, and was nowhere, nowhere near as pretty and brilliant as my mother told me I was. I was disappointed in everything and everybody, including myself, with no idea what to do about it other than grow up and hope it got better. So I see these children, some hardly looking much different than my 10-year-old, some looking like they could go off to college, and I know that they too have big thoughts, and big changes going on inside them. It is the process of becoming that is fascinating to me, when you can see it right in front of you. However, I look at them and remember that being in the process of becoming is sometimes terribly difficult, especially when you know that no matter what you do, time and experience are sometimes the only things that will help.

The greatest thing about 8th grade graduation is to spend a little time hearing about what is unique about each child, how they have made an impact so far, in this forum anyway. From the little dude with the bangs way over his eyes, to the serious-faced activist girl, to the girl who has absolutely no idea what a stunningly lovely young woman she already is, to the clown who has a heart of gold, I am glad to know a little more about who is coming up in this world.