Class of 2020 Graduation was about much more than a diploma

When COVID hit, I prayed and hoped it wouldn’t affect my son’s high school graduation. But as weeks went by, I could tell we were heading in the direction of a virtual graduation. I soon discovered that sometimes, because things don’t go as planned, doesn’t mean all is lost.

The Class of 2020 will go down in history thanks to COVID19. What other class can say they had a graduation parade in their hometown where they were celebrated? What other class can say they were adopted  via Facebook for the Class of 2020 “Adopt A Senior” ? (a community member randomly adopts a high school senior and makes a nice basket or bag full of their favorite things to make the senior feel special. )

The seniors lost out on wearing a cap and gown in an auditorium and taking pictures with their friends, a typical high school graduation. All these changes didn’t affect my son, Matthew, or at least that’s what he told me. He said he didn’t care about walking across the stage to get his diploma. But I did care.

I wanted him to walk across the stage and feel that sense of accomplishment and look out and see his family cheering for him. I soon realized I would only make myself more upset if I thought of what he was missing rather than what he was gaining.

So, what did he gain? He gained a new respect for being flexible. He learned change happens and how we adapt to it says a lot about our character.  We celebrated and honored Matthew and his classmates in a unique way that he will never forget. The whole purpose of graduation is to celebrate accomplishment. Well, we did that but in a different way.

We had a  very small graduation a party which included his two best friends, his girlfriend, his sister, his father and myself. I looked over at him as we were watching the graduation and I could see he was happy being surrounded by his friends and family. This was the way Matthew probably preferred to celebrate anyway.

Afterward, I surprised Matthew with a Zoom graduation celebration with his family in New York. They all wished him well and he was surprised and happy. If we had the normal graduation, I know I would not have done a Zoom party, so this was nice. His relatives from far away wished him love and happiness on his special day.  

I think about all the college graduation that  students didn’t get to walk, birthday parties no one would attend, weddings that were postponed, births no one could celebrate. I realize everyone has had their own sacrifices and not walking across stage for a high school graduation isn’t so bad in the bigger scheme of life.

I hope Matthew gets to walk across the stage for his college graduation, but if he doesn’t, it will be okay. There are bigger disappointments  in life and he knows that. We need to focus on the successes and accomplishments and what we can control.

As a parent, virtual graduation taught me a lot about seeing and doing things differently when necessary. Class of 2020 will always be remembered for being the class that embraced the new normal and made it their own. This is what will define them.

Good luck Class of 2020. Good luck my dear sweet Matthew. I am so proud of you. Not just for your educational  accomplishments, but for your life accomplishments and how you have handled all that has been thrown at you during your time in high school. Go make a difference. Be the change we want to see in the world.


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