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  • Writer's pictureAllan Shedlin

Not "Just Another Graduation"

Updated: May 10

By Allan Shedlin

The family is all smiles at my grandson Sam's graduation from the U. of South Carolina last weekend.

These milestone ceremonies get me every time, and I’m happy they do. Tears are all but guaranteed to flow readily and I’m also happy they do. As a favored Native American proverb notes, "The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears."

I write this week's blog in flight from South Carolina to Washington, DC, headed back home between the graduations of two grandchildren – one from college, the other from high school in two weeks.

With grandson Sam

As a student, I participated in my own graduations from nursery school through graduate schools. I've witnessed several more as the dad of three and granddad of five (and the bonus dad/granddad of more). And then there have been those of brothers and sisters. Oh, and as a school principal there were diplomas to sign, hands to shake, and speeches to deliver. I guess I could probably calculate the actual number, and because there have been so many, some people might feel justified in saying, "Allan, why are you crying? It’s 'just another graduation.'"

I remember when my father asked me to tell one of my daughters that he would not be attending her high-school graduation. Of course, I told him he would have to convey that news himself.

When I asked why he wouldn’t be attending, he said, "Do you know how many freakin' graduations I’ve attended?!" He had four children and eight grandchildren.

“I know you’ve attended many, but how many of this granddaughter’s high school graduations have you attended?" I answered.

Ben's nursery school graduation, 2005

I’ve learned that despite the familiarity of many graduation rituals, each of these milestones is unique, because each graduate is unique and has traveled a unique path to earn their diploma. It’s an opportunity to let the graduate know that you’re proud of them and to give them a few specific reasons why. And because it’s often a moment of reflection for the graduate, it provides an opportunity to glimpse the adult they are becoming.

While my own emotions are heightened, other moments of heightened emotion often come flooding back to me. As I heard each graduate’s name read and watched them walk across the stage for the ceremonial handshake, I noticed the uniqueness of their gait and imagined the uniqueness of the stories that brought them to this moment. And each story was magnified by the families in attendance and what they were feeling and what the moment meant to them.

Eldest granddaughter Casey's grad school graduation, 2023

My thoughts drifted back 27 years to shortly after the birth of my first-born grandchild as she lay sleeping swaddled in her bassinet. As I gazed lovingly through the nursery viewing glass at her in a line of other newborns, she wasn’t "just another newborn." She was my newborn granddaughter.

And then another poignant memory came to me from that moment. My nose was pressed to that glass surrounded by her other grandparents and her dad. And right next to me was a teenage dad, standing all by himself, peering at his newborn. Her welcoming circumstances were very different. And she too was not “just another newborn."


Daddying Film Forum in Philadelphia, May 17-18

FREE passes to both days of our 2nd Annual LIVE Daddying Film Forum in Philadelphia, May 17 and 18, are available now! The live Forum will bring children/youth together with their Dads/Dad figures and families to examine thoughts, feelings, and insights in response to selected D3F films. Attendees will express those responses through Q&A discussion and other creative means.

Forum Day 1, Friday, May 17th, from 4-8pm at the Parkway Central Free Library will feature screenings of this year's Atticus Award-winning student, dad-created finalist films, and a special presentation of the 2024 Sundance Film Festival’s Audience Award winner for best U.S. documentary and winner for Festival Favorite, DaughtersWe are honored that Girls For A Change founder and co-director, Angela Patton, will attend to participate in a live Q&A, and, appropriately, be introduced by her father, Harry Walker.

Day 2, Saturday, May 18th, 10am to 3pm at the iconic Mummers Museum, the Forum will present a selection of D3F 2024 indie feature and dad-created film finalists! Attendees also will have access to the museum. Snacks and beverages will be available at both Philly Forum events.

If you're in the Philadelphia area next week, we hope you'll join us for one or both free Daddying Film Forum events Daddy on!

A little fun with granddaughter Casey, 2023

Allan Shedlin has devoted his life's work to improving the odds for children and families. He has three daughters, five grandchildren, as well as numerous "bonus" sons, daughters, and grandchildren. Trained as an educator, Allan has alternated between classroom service, school leadership, parenting coaching, policy development, and advising at the local, state, and national levels. After eight years as an elementary school principal, Allan founded and headed the National Elementary School Center for 10 years. In the 1980s, he began writing about education and parenting for major news outlets and education trade publications, as well as appearing on radio and TV. In 2008, he was honored as a "Living Treasure" by Mothering Magazine and founded REEL Fathers in Santa Fe, NM, where he now serves as president emeritus. In 2017, he founded the DADvocacy Consulting Group. In 2018, he launched the DADDY Wishes Fund and Daddy Appleseed Fund. In 2019, he co-created and began co-facilitating the Armor Down/Daddy Up! and Mommy Up! programs. He has conducted daddying workshops in such diverse settings as Native American pueblos, veterans groups, nursery schools, penitentiaries, Head Start centers, corporate boardrooms, and various elementary schools, signifying the widespread interest in men in becoming the best possible dad. In 2022, Allan founded and co-directed the Daddying Film Festival & Forum to enable students, dads, and other indie filmmakers to use film as a vehicle to communicate the importance of fathers or father figures in each others' lives. Allan earned his elementary and high school diplomas from NYC’s Ethical Culture Schools, BA at Colgate University, MA, at Columbia University’s Teachers College, and an ABD at Fordham University. But he considers his D-A-D and GRAND D-A-D the most important “degrees” of all.


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