A few days ago our family had a milestone. It is one of those things that, at least in our family, would normally pass by with barely a nod of recognition. I know some people will cringe at my lack of enthusiasm for this particular life event, since I have come face-to-face with some people who seem think this is on par with a pivotal day in a person’s entire life, but that’s not really how we roll…

A few days ago I had a child “graduate” from middle school.

Even as I type that, I feel kind of torn between giggling and being embarrassed that it is a Thing. I also feel embarrassed because I know that to some people this is a really super huge deal and I honestly don’t want to seem like I am making fun of that or demeaning that. It’s just that, in my mind middle school is something you age out of. You pass out of middle school because you’ve done your time and haven’t given them any overwhelming reason to either permanently expel you or perpetually hold you back. So middle school graduation is more like getting paroled from prison than earning a degree from Harvard Med. You are happy your kid served his time and you get onto the next thing. And maybe you have some cake.

But when this particular son “graduated” it was a new thing for our family, and here’s why:

When we came to Seattle a few years ago this was a shy, quiet, go-with-the-flow kid. In our old community he was a little fish in a big pond, and that suited him just fine. His default in times of stress was to kind of shrink into nothing and hope to stay disappeared long enough for the storm to pass. We lived on a block with over a hundred kids, but he had one Very Best Friend, from whom he was practically inseparable, and then a few other close neighbors he played with, but he was definitely not Mr. Adventure.

This is our third year in Seattle and he is like a different person. He has become the king fish in the Seattle pond, but he has done it without running over anyone, and without being mean or cruel. He has none of that obnoxious, ‘Now I’m getting mine!’ thing that some formerly mousey kids get when they go in the other direction. He is still the sweet kind child, but now he is a powerhouse. He has taken on every leadership role he was offered, and then he went and invented a few more he could take on for good measure! He became the go-to guy to get things done, and he has more than a few families who call on him when they want a reliable kid to help them with something. He doesn’t discriminate against how he helps, either. If there is a project he is asked to participate in, there he is, stepping up to put his mark on it.

So when the school staff spoke about each graduate, they talked about this aspect of my child.

I guess it helps to know that he is one of our youngest. In our house sometimes he still gets lumped together with the younger kids, and we- more often than we should- refer to him and his younger sibling as “the littles”. Yeah, we should probably cut that out. Since we are a family with a lot of big personalities, it is still easy for him at home to get steamrolled sometimes, so we don’t always give him his due as a young man who has come into his own.

But at the graduation we saw him how other people see him. We saw how people who don’t have history with him look at him. And we were very very proud.

And then he won an award. It is an award given to the student who does things for the community and steps up and takes a leadership role and shows direction… I’m not sure exactly how it is written, but him getting this award- from a community organization, not from his school!- was hugely validating that he has really become an incredible person.

Not that he wasn’t awesome when he was shy and quiet, but he has just totally reinvented himself in Seattle. He has stepped up his game and become such a giver. This middle school graduation was not about him going from 8th grade into 9th, which to me is like going from 4th to 5th, or from Ohio into Michigan, or from a nap into dinner. This graduation was the marking of a milestone in the transformation of a character.

My son is going from an unassuming boy into a man of quality.

And that is something to celebrate.

I am so so proud of him!