the back of a young girl wearing a graduation cap


In An Alternate Universe, My Daughter Is Attending Her Grade 8 Grad

Jun 23, 2020

Somewhere in another dimension, a parallel world exists where my kid is attending her Grade 8 graduation.

In my mind’s eye, I can see her standing on the school field in a slight breeze wearing a dress that took her months to pick out as she poses for pictures. Her stubbornly straight hair has acquiesced into loose curls for this momentous occasion. Her acrylic nails, that I begrudgingly agreed to in a maternal moment of weakness, appear surprisingly tasteful and elegant. She looks every inch the young woman that she has become as she stands clustered with friends she’s had since those early elementary days.

Even in this imaginary scenario, I choke up.

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My husband and I brought her to that same field nine years ago when she was only five. She looked so small standing next to the gaggle of fledgling teens lurking awkwardly nearby. They appeared too big and oh so cool for the school. Their looming presence made me want to run and scoop her up and take her back to the safety and security of her tiny preschool.

Now my kid has morphed into one of those gangling teens. And she too has set her sights on bigger horizons.

"... like many students around the world, she will not be returning to the place where they grew, developed and flourished to mark the moment of graduation."

Truthfully, I’ve dreaded this moment. As we drew closer to the end of Grade 8, I started to feel the need to brace myself for the finale of these formative years: the last months, last pizza lunches and last trips home from school. I began stealing myself for the conclusion of this particular phase of childhood. The bittersweet moment when I would walk into that school one final time to celebrate my only child moving on up to her next chapter in life.

But that day will never come.

Schools are closed and, like many students around the world, she will not be returning to the place where they grew, developed and flourished to mark the moment of graduation.

Of course, this pandemic has caused untold hardship and heartbreak for people around the globe. And missing out on a grad ceremony and a party is minor in the grand scheme of what so many have endured. But my heart does go out to all the students who have been shortchanged on this milestone.

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My daughter has come to accept this reality with, mostly, good humour. Sometimes I think I’m more bummed out than she is. I know from experience that these celebratory occasions don’t come around often in life and these memories are to be cherished for a lifetime.

"And we’ll hide our tears behind sunglasses and wonder to ourselves, wherever did the time go?"

For my kid, she just looks forward to getting back to regular life when she can hang out with friends without the fear of getting sick or making someone else ill. She hopes that her high school life won’t be negatively impacted, too. And that we’ll all come through this OK — except maybe wiser and a little kinder. 

For me, sometimes when I’m alone and have a moment to breathe I indulge in that alternative universe. It's a place where I get to stand with my husband and my mom friends, and together we clap to salute our kids for making it through school. We’ll gather at the foot of the steps of the building where we once dropped them off for kindergarten, within eyeshot of the playground where they used to chase each other around, and cheer them as they exit the building one last time. And we’ll hide our tears behind sunglasses and wonder to ourselves, wherever did the time go?

I’m going to honour that transition, even if the celebration only takes place in my mind.

As I write this my husband walks over to me, touches my shoulder and beckons me to see something outside. Together we walk out the door towards the front of the house to find a sign that has appeared in the garden, as if by magic. It reads, "Congratulations 2020 grad!"

Other parents, who no doubt are feeling the same way, took the time to place these signs at the front of the homes of all the graduating students at her school. Suddenly, my sadness is lifted by this thoughtful gesture.

To the grads of 2020, I want to commend you. You didn’t have it easy this year, but you’ve not only accepted these unfortunate circumstances with grace, you’ve adjusted to this strange reality and successfully rolled with it. You are not only seeing the world for what it is, but for what it can be and for what you will do to change it.

And for that, we are so very proud.

Article Author Laura Mullin
Laura Mullin

Read more from Laura here.

Laura Mullin is a published playwright and writer and the Co-Artistic Director of the award-winning company, Expect Theatre. She is also the Co-Host and Producer of PlayME, a podcast that transforms plays into audio dramas now on CBC. She has worked in theatre, film, and television and lives in Toronto with her writer/producer husband and pre-teen daughter. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @expectlaura.

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