Brief Reflection on a Daughter’s Graduation


When she was four, she graduated from Hayes Nursery School. She was growing up fast. The children sang their songs, got their little certificates, and we eased into summer.

The next 9 years were reassuringly graduation-free. Time seemed to stand still a little bit because of the lack of ceremonial transitions. For a number of years, she would stand alone on the talent show stage and sing, a cappella, one of many multi-verse Irish rebel songs she had learned by osmosis from her dad. Standing stiff and straight, she’d launch into a song, crisply enunciating lines like:

“What will my local brethren think, when they hear the news 
My car it has been commandeered, by the rebels at Dunluce”
“We’ll give you a receipt for it, all signed by Captain Barr
And when Ireland gets her freedom, boy, you’ll get your motor car”

When you have a small daughter who does that, as you, her dad, and everyone else in the room stares in awe, you sort of get the idea that things are special around here. That tradition—of singing a rebel rousing song at the end of May every year—became a kind of passage-marker as she “graduated” from kindergarten to first to second to third and on up through the ranks.

I have been blessed to know many children who really liked school. As a teacher at a very special school, I saw them every day in my classroom. The ones who did not like school were quite rare. My son really liked school. He enjoyed the camaraderie and the sports and the hours spent in the art room or the science lab or learning guitar with a cool jazz musician on Thursday mornings.

With my daughter, it was different. If living life is partly about finding “the flow”—school was definitely part of her “flow.” She stayed in the flow through her 8th grade graduation, at which she spoke, with wisdom and a droll humor that kept everyone laughing, her high school graduation, cum laude etc. etc. and then, ever the educational traditionalist, college, after a mere four years of #crushingit.

It’s a funny thing to sit, surrounded by strangers and family, as several hundred names are read out, and several hundred beautiful 22 year olds stride proudly across a stage at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, where, for a variety of reasons, your daughter’s college holds commencement.

All those years ago, we chose a name for the baby who got herself born in record time due to having “been there, done that” so many lifetimes’ worth (I am convinced). We gave the name to a small human we made. It was our second gift to her, after life itself.

She wrote that name on her pictures, poems, and papers, on her notebooks, baseball gloves, riding helmets, applications, résumés, water bottles, and social media accounts. Then one day someone says that name into a microphone and yet another birth happens, as the human we made moves through yet another passage from what came before, to all that still awaits.