Graduations in lockdown: Milestones during uncertain times
Our daughter “Bright” graduated from preschool recently to move on to another school for Grade 1. Her graduation was nothing like your traditional graduation – there was no “Graduation March," no toga and cap to wear, no diploma to hold, no heartwarming ceremony to attend physically; not even the traditional keepsake grad photo.
Hers was a get-together with her classmates and teachers via Zoom, a video conference tool most likely is familiar with by now. I saw on the news how other graduates in our country made their own versions of a graduation in this time of the coronavirus: a Lolo in a small town who built a makeshift platform for his apo to stand on, just the two of them celebrating; teachers who went up the mountains in a far flung area of Mindanao to visit every house of their student with a graduation banner for photo ops and to personally hand each student his or her own diploma; a mom in Manila who marched with her daughter in front of the computer. These are just few of the many faces of the Class of 2020.
Graduation is such a universal milestone that I feel every child must experience in a lifetime. It is the culmination of years of learning and experiences with friends and teachers – something I was looking forward to for my 6-year old to go through and it was stripped away from her just like that.
My daughter was looking forward to her own graduation after seeing what her big sister had a couple of years ago. She is the type of girl who you struggle to wake on a regular school day, but wakes up way before the alarm for any special school activity such as a school program, a field trip, a movie showing, etc. (she calls it a “big day”). She was so excited to perform on stage with her classmates, to give gifts she had hand-made for her teachers, and to say goodbye to her friends in person.
So, when I told her what would happen, you can imagine how sad she got and how her face dropped. It ripped at my heart to see that reaction. Another reason out of the many reasons that I already had to hate this virus – that it also robs our children of important milestones in their life.
After explaining to her that she would still be graduating, though in a different way, this little girl just perked up, got over her sadness immediately and understood, accepted, and bounced back. Kids are amazing like that!
Not for me though. I had a hard time letting go.
From a cancelled graduation ceremony, I could not help but think of other things to be anxious about. How will this virus affect the next school year? Will they be missing a lot? Will they inevitably catch this virus in their lifetime? I pray not.
I tried to shrug off all these anxieties and fears the night before my daughter’s graduation by using my energy in making her graduation day special despite the situation. And so, my husband and I worked into the wee hours of the morning preparing for her day.
We had these little surprises lined up: 1.) an AVP presentation of her 3 years in preschool 2.) a photo collage and 3 a) decorated small area in the house with handmade decorations inspired by the classic children’s book, Oh the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss, among other things.
But something happened while making all those preparations.
While looking through all her photos and videos, I realized that all these memories, all these experiences she had are not outweighed by one missed event. Yes, graduation is the culmination, but it is the journey, not the destination, which makes it special. This own journey of hers was made up of many little moments and people — the everyday experiences in school that developed her to the kind and bright little girl she is, the presence of nurturing teachers, wonderful friends and us, her parents, who showed up for her, whether it was for a school program, a PTA, who showed up for her daily to bring her to school and pick her up after.
True enough, her graduation day was indeed special despite it being just a video conference call. It was a short but sweet ceremony where her school directress gave a heartwarming speech. Each of the student’s name was called and each, including Bright, beamed as their friends and teachers clapped.
They got to see their teachers and classmates once again, albeit virtually, to say hello to each other and express how much they missed them and their teachers. The whole scene sent most of us to tears, some teachers needing to turn off their videos momentarily so their students would not see their teachers cry.
And our daughter got to relive all the memories she made with them as we watched the photo and video presentations prepared by the school and by us.
My daughter’s batch, Batch 2020, is a batch that we will always remember. That Lolo and his apo, those students in the mountains, and many others, each had their own way of turning a tragedy into a gift. They earned their milestone during a time of uncertainty. I want to believe that they have been prepared to become stronger and wiser as they face another new journey in more challenging times. I have so much hope that this batch of graduates will make a difference and a real change someday. That will be a greater milestone, not just in their lifetime, but in our shared history.
It's too early for me to think of all of these big things for my 6 year old graduate but all I can do now as one of the parents of Batch 2020 is to continue showing up for her while trusting that we shall get through this crisis as a family, as a country, as one world. A brighter future awaits my daughter Bright and the rest of Batch 2020. – Rappler.com
Sarah Bautista-Abano is a mom of 3 young girls aged 1, 6 and 8. In 2014, she left her corporate job to be a fulltime mom. After a year, she put up her own passion project, With A Flourish, an event styling business.