A Frosting-laden Graduation Hangover (A highly unedited free write)

My son, Dane, graduated yesterday.

I had a post drafted for MamaMick that was set to run at 8 a.m. this morning.

This is not that post.

Life has both sunshine and rain. Sunshine happens at MamaMick – sometimes rain happens at Hummingbird. We need both to grow, right?

I will only lightly edit this free write, so keep these four themes in mind in case I go off the rails!

  1. Advice we gave our children
  2. 2018 Timeline
  3. The inciting event
  4. Lessons learned

Advice we gave our children: We kept it simple for both of our kids and tried not to stray off message. I’ll admit to hovering and helicoptering, but for the most part, we consistently preached the following:

  • Be kind
  • Be grateful
  • Don’t get pregnant (or impregnate)
  • Don’t do anything illegal

Guess what? It worked. We have two kind and gracious kids. Other than stealing a traffic cone (or 3), they have done all that we asked.


  • January 2018: Last semester, long winter, looking forward to a great wrestling season. 5 months to graduation.
  • February 2018: What an amazing wrestling season. I wonder how long winter will last. I still have 4 months before graduation.
  • March 2018: So glad that wrestling is over. Dane is acing his classes and I’m so thankful. Is it STILL winter?? Only 3 months till graduation.
  • April 2018: SHIT! Only 2 months till graduation! In between a flight to San Francisco and a twice-weekly 5-hour drive to St. Louis, I assembled invitations. The plan was a small family gathering after graduation with cake and punch. In order to make our faraway relatives feel included without feeling obligated, I inserted a small note in the formal announcement: Thank you for playing a role in raising an amazing young man. We’d love to see you after graduation for cake and punch. We also know you live a long ways away, so do not feel obligated. 
  • May 2018: Today, my baby graduates

Which leads to the:

Inciting event:

  • Friday – we had a great friends’ party and celebration. So much fun! I overheard a phone conversation between my husband and his mom. Apparently, I’d sent one of the invites to the wrong address on their side of the family. I didn’t think twice – they are a small family – I assumed everyone knew they were invited and everyone knows where we live. Graduation #2 – they know the drill.
  • Saturday – Baccalaureate. What an amazing ceremony. Dane introduced the speaker who told (with humor and grace) an honest and heart-wrenching story about making mistakes. She shared that life gives us chances to start over and that there are so many people in our lives who love us more than we know. I cried through the whole darned thing!
  • Sunday – Graduation. This day came too fast. I was numb. Too much peopling packed into three days. In our row, sat my daughter and hubby, followed by my parents and hubby’s parents. Hubby’s aunt and uncle. My brother and sister-inlaw, and my sister and brother in-law and all of their kiddos. So lucky and grateful all at once. These people and more, love me more than I realize. 
  • Sunday – post graduation. We exited into the chaos (over 250 grads and families). I gave Scott’s aunt and uncle hugs and expressed how thankful I was that they drove 2 hours and sat another 90 minutes to hear Dane’s name announced for less than 15 seconds. The moment we broke apart I asked, You’re coming for cake and punch after, right? Body language changed, brows furrowed, and the clipped, raised voice and hot breath of Aunt V landed on my face which was only inches away We didn’t KNOW we were invited. Your invite was NOT very clear. You TOTALLY excluded one of my children, so I assumed we weren’t invited either. We had only planned to show our faces and leave. She said more, but I missed most of it because I was holding back vomit and tears.
  • Sunday – stress response. Fight – flight – or freeze. I apologized all over myself all while holding back tears. How could I have made this terrible mistake? How could I have been so stupid? They are so mad. Aunt V looks ready to hit me. Then, I flew off, deserted my family, and waded through hundreds of people until I found a retaining wall outside the building. I watched all the families hugging and celebrating as they poured out of the venue. Tanna  found me, and quietly held my hand while I sat in silence. There are people who love you more than you know. I was devastated and stunned. I couldn’t even cry. Hubby was ready to fight. I didn’t take any pictures of Dane. She stole our day. She fucking hijacked it. 
  • Sunday – at the grad party. Aunt V came. Arms folded, her generous ass in a chair for 90 minutes while her resting bitch face devoured cake. I ate a lot of cake, too. I mean A LOT of cake. I tried to see it from her lens, I tried to understand her lashing, but in the end I couldn’t make eye contact or even be cordial. I cowered in the corner with my best friend…and ate more cake. My husband was livid and my mother in-law hid in the house and cried. I’d heard horror stories of Aunt V terrorizing my mother in-law during high school–they’d grown up together. Keep in mind, we are two Midwestern families who were all raised within 15 miles of each other. With Midwest, comes polite, low drama events. We are all painfully nice to each other…until we aren’t. I’ve been in my husband’s family for 30 years and hadn’t experienced the legendary Aunt V temper until yesterday. She caught me off guard. People aren’t really this hateful, right?

Lessons learned: I’m still recovering. I didn’t get any pictures of Dane. You guys know me – capturing moments with a camera are my thing. I didn’t get any pictures. That phrase woke me at 3:00 this morning and I ruminated on the loss until I fell asleep sometime before 5 a.m.

I let her steal Dane’s day from me. I let her inflict her personal issues, and I sucked up her energy like the people-pleasing vacuum that I am. I also ate waaay too much sugar and cake frosting (as if!), so I am hungover from carbs and emotion.

I’m not there yet, but I’m working on putting things into perspective as I thought back to the events during my morning run. I did the best I could with the time and gifts I’d been given. I can’t control her words, but I can control my reaction…and it’s not too late to control the aftermath.

Perhaps the lessons we’ve touted to our children might work for me, too?

  • Be kind – my dad was the first to make a move. He engaged Uncle L in conversation. My mom did the same with Aunt V. They made them feel welcome and appreciated –took up the slack when I couldn’t garner up the strength to the better person. Kindness is a super power – I can wear that cape. 
  • Be grateful – Dane gave Aunt V the biggest hug, and said some very non-teenage-boy words as she was departing Thank you so much for driving all this way to come see me. I really appreciate it.
  • Don’t get pregnant – SEE! None of this would have happened if hadn’t got knocked up 23 and 18 years ago 😉
  • Don’t do anything illegal – Last I checked, it’s not against the law to kick horrible relatives off any future guests list.

If I had to do it all again, I’d add one more huge lesson to my list of four. I shared it this morning with Dane. It’s the same message the speaker shared on Saturday. We are not our mistakes. We are all doing the best we can and will definitely screw up along the way. And, there are people who love us more than we know – they don’t give a shit about our mistakes – they only care about us.