It is that time of year – graduation. My son will be graduating from high school this year, and I haven’t spoken to him in two years. I don’t know whether he went to the prom (no pictures on Facebook posted by the ex), but I do know that graduation is around the corner and that he will in fact graduate. What’s an erased parent to do?
Maybe you’ve wrestled with this too – or are in the process of wrestling with it. On the one hand, you don’t want to cause a scene by showing up. After all, isn’t this day all about the graduate? Should you simply honor his or her “wishes” and not attend this most important of milestones? On the other hand, this is a big step in the life of your child, and you should be there to celebrate too. After some soul-searching and getting some support, I decided that I will attend.
First and foremost, showing up is important to express your unconditional love and support for your child. Once you fully understand the pathology of alienation, you will begin to comprehend the dichotomy of external communications and internal messaging in the child. Your child may be saying to you “don’t go to the graduation,” but the internal dialogue is very different. The inner authentic child wants you to be there, and really desires your unconditional love. I decided to attend as a way to demonstrate my unconditional love and support for my son, and I know that, deep down, he wants me to be there despite any external message he is conveying to me.
Showing up at this milestone will also be important down the road. If and when there is full restoration of the relationship, you will be able to show your child that you were there for him or her. That’s why it is also important to take pictures and document your visit to the ceremony. Take a selfie in front of the school or the stage, keep the program – do these small things and set them aside so that you can show your son or daughter once the authentic child has been released and the relationship has been restored.
This is also important for you, the authentic parent. Yes, we’ve been shut out of so many of the big and little things in the life of our child. But graduation is a pretty significant milestone in the life of a child. You don’t want to have regrets – I don’t want have any regrets – on missing something this big.
A graduation is also one type of event where we, the targeted parents, have some semblance of control. So many other events – the first date, getting the driver’s license – simply happen behind the scenes and we will never have any experience of them. In the case of a graduation, we know when and where it is happening, and we have a right to be there. I’m exercising that control, and you know what? It feels good to do so.
You might need to deal with a few other issues associated with graduation.
Tickets – some schools have limited seating and tickets are often distributed to the students. As part of taking control of the situation, I called the school, explained the situation and worked out an arrangement to get two tickets directly from the school.
Family – what about grandma and grandpa? I think it is best if they can attend too, but you might have to finesse this issue. My parents (who have been alienated as well) live a 1000 miles away. Since we don’t even know if my son will attend the ceremony, we decided that they will stay home. However, depending on the situation, it is probably the best thing for grandma and grandpa to be there too.
Graduation announcements – another issue I had to wrestle, but I ultimately decided that I would send them. After all, he’s my son too, and I don’t need permission from anyone to be proud of him.
The authentic parent has the right to be proud and to feel the sense of accomplishment of your child. After all, you contributed to your child’s success in some way – whether that is small or large. So rather than staying in the shadows – and yes, probably spend the day feeling sorry for myself (again) – I decided that I am going to attend this ceremony and take part in this accomplishment. My son’s school experience didn’t happen the way I envisioned – but it happened and I’m going to be proud.