Our son’s last day of 5th Grade was last Wednesday, which means the awards ceremony that started that same morning is just about over.
I’m not sure if it’s a New York State mandate or just an attempt to drag this school year into the next school year, but is it really necessary for parents to be corralled into a stuffy sweat box disguised as a gymnasium to listen to a laundry list of names being given in slow, rhythmic, almost narcoleptic “Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?” fashion until every child has received his or her own weight in paper?
We’re busy people. More importantly, we’re warm-blooded people. What this means (for those who didn’t get awards in Science) is that our bodies are able to maintain a relatively constant inner body temperature unless our surrounding environment resembles that of an Easy Bake Oven.
If we were cold-blooded people, then our body temperature would more easily adapt to the temperature around us. Meaning, we could all fry eggs on our thighs and remain content.
At first, the whole ordeal is cute.
“Oh, look! Little Sally McGee won an award for Multiplication Facts!”
But midway through the recognition filibuster, everyone starts to resent Little Sally McGee as she struggles to grapple and collate her eleventy dozen award certificates.
Parental angst is directly related to the heat, so by the second hour, the administration begins to wonder if they should have tied the chairs down. On the cusp of an all-out riot, parents squirm in their seats and try to fan their faces with weighty programs. As tumbleweeds pass, you can hear the faint shrieks of distant hawks and occasionally catch a glimpse of circling buzzards.
It’s a little known Wild Kingdom fact, but school award ceremonies are the primary reason why buzzards migrate.
Graduations are a close second.
At the front of the gymnasium, and throughout the entire program, paramedics rotate in shifts to tend to victims of heat stroke and supply bags of IV’s to teachers still waiting their turn to speak.
Those already finished reading off their dockets of awards are simply wheeled out on gurneys to awaiting National Guardsmen so they can be airlifted and then dropped over Seneca Lake to rehydrate. Once in a great while, a UN chopper will come along to airdrop water bottles to audience members still sitting upright.
Understand that I’m all for acknowledging a year’s worth of hard work, but back when I was in 5th grade, the only reward we received was an invitation to come back for 6th. And somehow, this was enough.
Yet as I flipped through Volume One of the Cady Stanton Awards Catalog that was handed to me upon entering the heat chamber, I could see that for the 238 students in the school, roughly ten thousand award certificates were slated to be distributed.
As the students filed into the gym I noticed that it wasn’t just 5th graders sitting cross-legged in front of us. It was the entire school. Every 3rd grader, 4th grader, and 5th grader was about to be rewarded for everything from excellence in mathematics to putting the seat down.
It didn’t take long for our hands to chafe from all the repeat clapping. Not wanting to let any child feel unappreciated, the sea of overheated parents collectively applauded as each name was given. Until, in a gracious display of mercy, we were told to hold our applause until all the names from each category were read.
Aside from, “Why yes, all of your DMV paperwork seems to be in order,” there isn’t a more welcomed statement in the English language.
I remarked to my wife that we could be in and out of that gym inside of 20 minutes if they just did the “raise your hand” or “please stand” method of recognition. Even faster if they just said, “Here are the names of students who didn’t get an award. When I read your name, please stand in shame.”
Instead, each and every student called was expected to uncross his or her legs, shake off the rigor mortis that had settled in as they waited, and slowly meander their way to the front of the gym with the speed of a geriatric snail.
There was the approach.
The dropped certificate.
And the smiling return.
And it was in this smiling return that I realized why we subject ourselves to such a brutal experience. An experience you’ll never see on Man vs. Wild because of the sheer danger and taxing toll it has on the human body.
We do it because we love our children. I really see no other reason why someone would voluntarily sit through hours of names being read as teachers rattled off awards that I never even knew COULD exist. It may take several days before we hear our children’s names read, but seeing the look of pride on their heat-worn puffy red faces somehow makes all the dehydration worthwhile.
Considering all they’ve achieved, I suppose the least we can do as parents is lose 22 pounds in water weight as they enjoy their moment in the sun.
Even if it feels like the ceremony is taking place upon it.