Yesterday was my son’s high school graduation which marks completion of 12 years of schooling. Unlike Pakistan where barely toddlers of 2 and a half years are enrolled in school, here kids start Kindergarten at 5 and 1st grade at 6. At times some parents delay the start till 7 or skip Kindergarten altogether.
Driving to the graduation ceremony, I was telling my son how finishing high school was not that big of a deal in my days and also pondering why it is so in America. One of the reasons could be that an American 12th grader knows a lot more about practical life than in many other countries. They are taught basic banking, money management, budgeting, child rearing, baby sitting, speech, debate and many other day to day skills. Most have already worked entry level jobs by now and know what it takes to earn and spend. At the end of 12 years, this product called student is ready to be shipped to its destination, the real world. So it’s not out of place to celebrate these young adults, who if nothing else, aren’t afraid to speak their minds.
Oh O how can I use the word “adult” and not tell you the perks that come with it both for parents and kids. After 18 it’s a whole different ball game which we “Desi parents” burdened by separation anxiety, still have a hard time dealing with. As children become adults, all their information turns private. Now if your good old very own child falls sick you can’t access his/her records unless privacy release documents are signed. They could still be using your money and your credit card but their own bank account will become private unless it’s a joint account. Best of all despite paying for their college you will have no access to their grades and performance. No wonder, for many American parents 18 comes with a sense of liberation and a sigh of relief when that belligerent teenager moves out. Divorce is also not uncommon at this point since spouses are done putting up with each other for the sake of raising children. Now it’s not everyone; I personally know many American couples who are married over 20, 30, and even 40 years.
Another change marked by high school graduation is separation from one’s friends. Choosing different colleges all across America, kids say good bye to longtime friendships. Even the ones who go to same college, chose different majors and don’t see each other much after high school. For children of immigrant parents these friends are like family since they don’t have cousins living close by or even in the same state. Yes 18 marks many milestones and hence the celebration of it.
So talking about yesterday’s ceremony, the venue Dallas Convention Center offering 12000 seats was packed to capacity by parents, siblings, relatives, and friends who came from far and wide. The 1500 strong Class of 2016 was ready to receive their first diploma which not just certifies hard work but also opens new doors and opportunities. Plano, TX our hometown is a very diverse community and one couldn’t help but notice the frequent number of Muslim, Hindu, Hispanic, and Chinese names in the program brochure which listed the names of all graduating students.
I felt proud looking at the stage where the 10 students selected to speak were sitting brushing shoulders with faculty. 8 of them were Asians with the Valedictorian (top student) being Chinese and Salutatorian (anchor) Indian. Later when they spoke each one of their speech was worth listening; full of wisdom, humor, and optimism.
With our crème of the crop Asian students, one can imagine what tomorrow’s American corporate and industry will look like. American demographic is surely changing and that calls for a separate column. But for now I take solace in the fact that no Donald Trump can take away the bright future from our children. I returned home reassured and filled with hopes. Our kids got it!!!