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For many people, the end of May means one thing and one thing only: If you have a child or grandchild, or a friend moving on to a new phase in their academic career, the month of May means far more than flowers or Mother’s Day or spring-cleaning; It means graduation.

Ah yes, graduation…the pomp, the circumstance, the gifts, the ceremonies, the awards, the speeches, the accolades. I guess I just didn’t realize it’s the same gilded lily ritual whether you’re earning your PhD or completing the year at Miss Lois’s Younger Years Play Group. This year, we had one graduation in the family and it was a big one—not since the grades went from words to numbers (senior kindergarten to first grade) in 2006 has there been such an auspicious occasion in our house: Punch graduated sixth grade.

Now, most of you know Punch is my youngest, behind Cranky (15) and Whiny (14). This is my third sixth-grade graduation. Were they always this involved? My friends assure me that yes, in fact they were; and no doubt, they have the video to prove it. I guess at first blush, a sixth-grade graduation ceremony seems like a fatuous, self-indulgent event—just another sign of how today’s children are coddled into a complete lack of efficacy. Upon further analysis, however, I reconsidered. I mean, Punch spent nine years at that school, and he passed some pretty big milestones. In a strange way, sixth-grade graduation pays tribute to some of the most important goals these kids will ever achieve.

Punch learned how to read and write in grade school, (If your child is learning how to read and/or write in high school, you might want to rethink your school district.)

He learned about friendship in its purest form. Grade-schoolers don’t care who drives the coolest car, they don’t know if someone belongs to a country club (OK in fairness, access to a swimming pool and/or trampoline may tip the scales.), they don’t let stupid girls come between them. They just know who they like.

Punch also learned how to throw and catch in grade school—sure you smirk, but just wait. When Punch is tapped to join the senior partners of Dewey, Cheatum and Howe for their mid-life crisis pick up game, he will be ready.

The list goes on. He learned how to camp. He learned how to add. He learned how to sing, perform and speak in public. He learned how to swim—he’s no Michael Phelps, but if he falls into Lake Michigan, I can say with 90-percent certainty that he could make it ashore without assistance. He learned about elements and animals and chemicals and tetherball and dinosaurs and ancient Egypt and the solar system. I mean, what did we learn in college that’s more important than any of those? I took a class my junior year on Marxism and Communism, and I still can’t tell the difference.

For goodness sake, if there were ever a time for Punch to make a speech and get a pin and pose for photos and earn a diploma, certainly that time is now.

So it’s been nine years. Nine years, four broken bones, two cases of pink eye, one chipped tooth, 19 pairs of sneakers, seven sports, one and a half languages (including English), seven stitches, 2,714 band aids, 27 parent-teacher conferences, a head lice scare and one ride in the back of a squad car (I’d rather not say). He’s practically ready to go out and face the world, but I think I’ll keep him at home for a little longer. He still has a few things to learn.

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