Not Just Valedictorians

First up was Connie.

She appeared a bit nervous, but smiled with contrived confidence. She held her flower in front of her and stepped forward as “Pomp and Circumstance” bellowed from the loudspeakers. She marched to the stage.

Ethan came next. He couldn’t stop smiling. Maybe he knew the career that lay ahead was filled with excitement. Maybe he just felt great about all the work he’d put in and now was being rewarded. He was a happy man.

Craig looked pretty serious. The cap and gown was obviously something he’d long been looking forward to and he would not let a smile betray how important this moment was. He nodded firmly to his parents as he stepped by.

Jordan stepped up. A smattering of applause followed the announcement of his name. A class leader, a class clown – Jordan was clearly popular and had “a way” with people. He would go far, and even if he didn’t go far with his career, he’d find the fun in everything and every moment.

Monica was in tears. She kept a stiff upper lip and held her head high, but the tears streamed down her face. She apologetically looked toward the stage seemingly embarrassed at her inability to control her emotions. She forced a smile and headed forward.

On and on it went; one graduate candidate after another, and I marveled at how clearly their personalities were being indicated as that special moment presented itself.

Who would these people go on to be? Doctors, lawyers, store owners, nurses, office workers, truck drivers … Where would God’s hand guide them? This seemed especially important -- since this was Kindergarten graduation and all of these ladies and gentlemen had at least the next 12 years to figure this out.

But what a critical 12 years it will be, huh? What will they likely see? Some will deal with loss as they lose their grandparents and great-grandparents and in some cases their parents. Some will deal with sadness as their families break apart and divorce separates everything that once made them so secure. Some will travel with their families and friends and open their minds to big horizons in countries most of us cannot even pronounce.

Bullies will come and go. Broken promises will hurt them and weather them. The first matters of the heart and the pain of actual heartbreak will deal them some cards. These, too, are unavoidable -- and undoubtedly part of the growing process.

But, as parents, please try to recall the importance of your role. Whether you are still married to your child’s other parent or if you are a stepparent to a child who is suddenly living under the same roof as you, know always that little eyes are watching you and taking notes.

And while, yes, you should be able to completely relax in your own home, there is a price for getting so personally irresponsible with yourself that all your kids see is the bad image that you may only portray when not in public.

They should be able to look to the adults in the house and model themselves into a consistent image of love, success and forward thinking. You owe them that and should not shirk the responsibility of sobriety, respect, responsibility and honor. How else are we ever going to churn out quality young people unless they model themselves after good solid people and parents? They will be the people that will be making the decisions that affect our lives down the road. Are we being what we would have them become?

There is an old Italian fable that is told and retold among the families. The aging grandpa sits shivering in the living room and the grandpa’s son tells his own son to run upstairs and get the blanket for the old man. It’s time to take him to the nursing home. The grandpa hears this news and begins to cry, but the son reasons it is “the right thing to do.”

A few moments go by and the grandson has yet to reappear. The father goes angrily up the steps to see what is taking so long and finds his son cutting the blanket in half. “What do you think you are doing, boy?” he says. The young boy turns innocently to his father and says, “I’m just saving half to prepare for your turn someday, Dad.”

Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at