A reader asked:
My daughter graduates from high school in a month. She has Aspergers and had many challenges but managed to do well academically. However, she didn’t feel that the school dealt well with her. She is happy to close the door on that part of her life and wants to do it without ceremony. I get it. My husband and I would like to see her walk at graduation but are willing to accept her not attending the ceremony. However, she has said she will go if we ask her to. Should we ask or leave it alone?
I think that the graduation ceremony probably has a very different symbolic meaning for you than it does for your daughter.
I think that, for you, it is probably like this:
- As her parents, you are very proud of her accomplishment in doing well in high school in a difficult situation
- You want to celebrate that
- For you, seeing her walk at graduation is a profound symbol of what she has accomplished and how proud you are of her
I think for her, it is probably like this:
- High school was a bad experience for her
- Going to graduation feels like a celebration of the school and her relationship with the school
- She doesn’t feel that the school treated her well, so she doesn’t want to celebrate with the school
If I’m reading the situation and the symbolic meanings it’s taking for all of you correctly, I don’t think that it is a good idea to ask your daughter to go to the ceremony for your sake. I don’t think that it’s good to push her into something that, for her, feels like celebrating people treating her badly.
But, deciding not to go to the graduation ceremony doesn’t mean that you can’t celebrate your daughter’s accomplishments. You can likely find a form of celebration that would suit all of you, for instance:
- Having a graduation party for your daughter and her friends
- Having a family dinner at a restaurant your daughter likes
- Buying a symbolic present (eg: something related to your daughter’s interests, or something she will use in the next phase of her life)
- Taking a trip together
- Baking a cake
- Writing a story or a poem
- Or however else your family celebrates milestones