Celebrate the Small Stuff?

Houseful Of Nicholes

This is the year of milestones for my oldest son. The cellist will be graduating from elementary school and then beginning high school. He’s been at the same school for 10 years. A full decade of his life. 

In this decade I have seen my son grow from a small child very sure of himself on the first day of Pre-K, to a timid tween, trying to figure out why the same folk he started his elementary journey with would choose to make him feel like an outcast. I’ve seen him try to people please, and then move to the idea that no one will like him more than he can. I’ve seen growth. I’ve seen tears. I’ve seen random bouts of laughter. I’ve seen sullen moods. I’ve seen it all. 

The thing is, in the midst of all of this, I’ve  seen my three-year old become a 13-year-old, eager to graduate, and sometimes I feel like our public school system is failing him. It’s no secret that Chicago is suffering from political issues. I won’t lie, I miss the school when he was in 6th grade. When all of the teachers were comfortable – still overworked, but they were a well oiled machine. Then, our principal had to leave, and my son was left with a school with no administration. NONE. We muddled along the best we knew how, and we still tried to do things the way that they were done prior to our administration leaving. That didn’t last long, because we were then informed that our school building was shutting down due to under-utilization, and we would be co-locating with another school. 

I could say so much about this year, but I won’t. I will say these things. My son has perseverance like no other. I can pinpoint LOTS of times where I would have taken my mom up on an offer to stop going to school and be homeschooled.  He didn’t. I can pinpoint lots of times where I would have possibly let the statements of those put into place to encourage me, deflate me. Those times where I was told to make lemonade out of the lemons constantly to cover up the issues of our transition to a new school building, a new staff, and a new community. 

The straw that broke the camel’s back for me this year though, was when the cellist requested that he get enough tickets for his 8th grade graduation so that his immediate family could attend. JUST US. Not my parents, not Mr. Houseful’s parents, no aunts or uncles. I was floored when the response that he received was “You can’t invite the whole block, this is just a small achievement. It’s not high school or college graduation.” 


Let me say this. I’m very well aware that there are several opinions regarding elementary school graduation. That’s not what I’m frustrated with. I’m frustrated with someone who is dealing with a class that has seen everything that they have been working towards change. The last two years, they haven’t been able to do a THING that they’ve seen other 7th and 8th grade classes do. They haven’t had the full support either. No National Junior Honor Society. They haven’t taken ONE FIELD TRIP, and the incessant need for them to write proposals to stay interested in school drive me nuts. PROPOSALS! 

I feel that my son has been failed, by both the school system and me. I could have put my matronly foot down and pulled him out of school and finished his elementary school year out with homeschooling. I could have had him transfer schools. There were so many options. Yet I didn’t take any. ME. The super school advocate. 

Sometimes I feel like I’M in 8th grade as I silently count down the days until we no longer have to deal with elementary school. Yet, I silently pray that we can hold on to these days, because high school is going to fly by, and before I know it, he’ll be in college, then getting married, having children. 

I know that I have issues with milestones. I was already pretty intense about them when I was younger, but after my sister died (yes, everything seems to come back to her lately) I’ve gone into high gear. Some of it is important, others not so much. I need to find a happy place and squat. 

I want to be there for him, but I don’t want to be suffocating.  Is he wrong for wanting his immediate family there? Am I wrong for supporting him? Where is the divide? Please tell me that there is a divide. You know, for research. 


  1. Kari says:

    It’s like I was writing most of this post myself.
    Different school district but similar politics.
    And I also have an 8th grader graduating.
    It’s first come, first served at hers.
    Better get there early.
    Because it’s a big day.
    Hugs to you and congratulations to your son.

    • Natasha says:

      This is absolutely ridiculous Kari. It’s as if they feel that parents and other family members have also jumped on the “college bound” train and only have tunnel vision for that. Can you imagine if my parents didn’t celebrate my sister? She never made it to a college graduation, and I can guarantee that administration wouldn’t have heard the end of it if they had uttered “don’t celebrate this small accomplishment,” to my parents.

  2. Rachee says:

    I feel the same way. Mt daughter attended provate schools and she has struggled as she made her way. I feel like there were so many mistakes and so may ways I should have done better by her but I too celebrate her transitioning from middle school to high school. I think it does take a village and everyone should be there to support him.

    • Natasha says:

      I would be lying if I said that I didn’t cry. Because I did. I just know the rough road that they’ve had, and I hate that administration is supposed to be making it a bit more bearable. Instead they’re babying them in academics, and not in perseverance, and support. It’s all super frustrating.

  3. Mandi says:

    You are absolutely not wrong for supporting him! I celebrate all of my children’s accomplishments no matter how great or small they seem to ME. And administrators, teachers, or whoever are OUT OF LINE for referring to ANYONE’S family ESPECIALLY their immediate family as the whole block! I’m appalled. When will the people who care about children, their ups, downs, their growth, return to the school system!?! EPIC FAIL CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS. EPIC FAIL!!!

  4. Caroll says:

    As a parent who has advocated for my son for all of his school life and he is now a sophomore in high school, I can say it doesn’t end but you can get better at handling the disappointments. Take your cues from your son as he is learning to navigate his world based on his feelings, emotions and expectations. You know that life will bring him disappointments so the sooner he deals with it the better just be there to let him know that sometimes you can effect a change and sometimes you have to accept the situation because to rail against it will prolong your unhappiness. I remember being in your position at one time about homeschooling my child because he was not doing well on test. Instead I had him tested privately and found he has text taking anxiety and with that diagnosis I was able to have the teacher give him special accommodations. However, I remember asking him if he wanted to be home schooled and he did not. He wanted to keep trying. I am glad I let him stay because he would miss that critical time in a child’s life where they learn to mix and mingle and “find” their place in a crowd. It will help them build their confidence, even if right now it may seem tenuous. By high school it will be much better. You are doing a good job. You are aware of what is happening and that is huge. You are entering the phase where you have to be hands off simply so he can learn to be hands on. I know they are our babies and we hurt to see them in any kind of discomfort but it is a phase of life. Just be there to reassure him and never let him forget where his ultimate love comes from (God) and who God has used to make sure he can cope on earth (mom).

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