Sunday, April 6, 2014

We Have Met The Enemy, And He Is ... Graduating?

From today's Times and News-Star

Best graduation address I ever heard of was from an honored parent of a Shreveport high school senior who, after formal thanks and congratulations, said simply, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”

That was it. But that was a lot. If it’s good enough for Winston Churchill …

Of course, this was too late for some of the seniors. By mid-term, certainly by Valentine’s Day, many had mailed it in. Phoned it in. Punted. Set sail. Poured water on the fire and called in the dogs.

Why? Because of Senioritis.

Human nature never changes, so neither does this disease. It comes annually, in mass, though only to homes in which a high school senior lives. Or, more appropriately at this state, only to homes in which a high school senior sleeps in and otherwise only visits, both physically and mentally.

The Urban Dictionary can be a beautiful thing. It defines “senioritis” as “a crippling disease that strikes high school seniors. Symptoms include: laziness, an over-excessive wearing of track pants, old athletic shirts, sweatpants, athletic shorts, and sweatshirts. Also features a lack of studying, repeated absences, and a generally dismissive attitude. The only known cure is a phenomenon known as Graduation.”

Maybe you’ve forgotten what it was like to have had senioritis. But if you have a senior – we do – you quickly remember.

At first you think they’re getting cocky. Then you think that maybe they are “just acting 17.” But then you remember waking up on a Tuesday in 1977ish and rationalizing that the biggest waste of time in your life would be going to school that day.  

You went, and the only saving grace was that you found company in the misery. All your friends, these good students who turned papers in on time and raised their hands with legitimate questions in class and helped you study for tests, all of them were acting as if they’d been hit with the Rip van Winkle stick.

Sleepy. Zoned out. Ants in the pants. Ready to go. Anywhere but here.

Anywhere but school.

We have been blessed at the house with a solid female senior. No tardiness, no slip in grades and no rebellion. (Like I, being a guy, would even know!) But she and all her friends admit that while they love their school, they can’t wait to leave it. Yesterday.

Don’t panic if your senior does not remember your name. Or even their name. It is natural for them to be eager to “take the next step.” You could remind them that, unless they finish hoeing their row, the next step could be summer school.

As parents, we have to remember our children have this short-lived affliction, a natural human tendency to think they’ve learned it all and seen it all. It’s not a particularly attractive part of youth, but you take the good with the bad, and you hope some of the senioritis is caused by looking forward to a bigger challenge, something their high school has helped prepare them for.

You hope they’ll snap out of it long enough to thank their teachers. Maybe look around at the ol’ alma mater halls and count their blessings. Not everyone gets to go to school. Not everyone has teachers or parents who care.

The pros and cons of high school, we can debate at another time. But whether you want it to or not, there’s something about high school that never leaves you, even though senioritis does and even though you leave it.

Our senior class president was a nice guy named Mike LeBrun. He was a good president: he taxed us a bit too much and his cabinet was nothing to write home about, but we had good roads and a strong defense and the trash was always picked up on time. Low crime rate. And Mike really sincerely enjoyed high school, more than any other guy I’ve known. Thrilled to be there, every day. I have no idea why I’ve always remembered one stanza of a poem he wrote that was printed in the “Rebelaire,” our yearbook. Went like this:

“Some look back and sigh
Uncaring, they have sinned
I look back and say,‘Why?
Why did it have to end?’”