According to the Collins online dictionary, homecoming (aka HoCo) “is a day or weekend each year when former students of a particular school, college, or university go back to it to meet each other again and go to parties and sports events.” Sometimes there is a parade, sometimes a football game, sometimes a dance – sometimes all three and more.
It seems that homecoming traditions stem from having alumni visit their former colleges after graduation and beyond. Over the years, the tradition trickled down to high school as well.
Maybe it was because I went to high school in the 80s or possibly because I did not grow up in the suburbs (or a combo of both), but HoCo was not a thing that I experienced. That said, if we did, I cannot imagine we’d call it HoCo. Nope. Not NYC kids! Similar to how we say “the prom” and not just “prom.” We did not “HoCo” in the Bronx. HoCo was for movies and television – not real life. Or so I thought.
As my children advanced through middle school and high school in our suburban school district, it quickly became apparent that homecoming IS real. (Sorry, there are only so many times I can say HoCo before feeling queasy.) This thing is a BIG DEAL and often an all-weekend event.
Our school district hosted a spirit night on a Friday evening. All the schools in the district, including the five elementary schools, came together on the middle school and high school campus for the traditional homecoming celebration. There were many food trucks, floats for each school, a parade, an introduction of the fall sports teams, a football game, and fireworks. (No dance. PS to our school district – this is NOT a hint!). It sounds like a blast with all sorts of fun reasons to go. However, I cannot vouch for it personally as my teenage children had zero interest in going.
What? C’mon kids! Rah-rah! Don’t you want to feel that sense of belonging? That sense of school spirit? Enjoy time with friends? Isn’t everyone going? How amazing to have this opportunity, especially since the past 18 months of school life were less than normal and ideal?
No maybes, nor ifs. No “I’ll go if ‘so-and-so goes.” No indecisiveness whatsoever. At this point in their lives, the decision was theirs to make, and I had to respect that. And after all, an event such as homecoming was hardly a “have-to” by any means. I wondered why they truly wanted to pass. I asked some general questions but concentrated on some limited ones to ensure there weren’t any deeper reasons they wanted to pass.
My son is a high school senior, and while this has never been his scene, I thought maybe he’d go since this would be his last homecoming as a current student. Nope. With my 8th grade daughter, I thought perhaps she did not find a group to go or meet up with, which resulted in her negative response. I mean – teen girls – need I say more? That did not appear to be the case. She was calm and quite matter-of-fact about her decision. Whereas if something were bothering her, I would have indeed been on the receiving end of major ’tude! Nope.
Alrighty then. No homecoming for my favorite people. It sounds like they’ll miss out on an enjoyable evening.
As the events grew closer, I still contemplated the “why.” Before the Friday portion of the homecoming weekend, I attended the back-to-school night at the middle school. Catching up with some fellow 8th grade mothers, one mentioned that her daughter has been on campus all afternoon and into the evening watching one of the many sports games being played. I thought to myself, “What a fun way to spend an afternoon! Hmm…my daughter isn’t into that.”
At that very moment, a complete sense of calm came over me. The “why” questions fleeted. “My daughter isn’t into that.” And that is okay. My children do not want to go to homecoming. And that is okay too.
It turns out that the “why” was not relevant. It’s not their thing. It is not their idea of fun and entertainment. And at that, while in the minority, I can guarantee that it is more than just my two. Homecoming and such can be overwhelming, way crowded, too much of a scene, intimidating, or just “too much.” Or it could be as simple as “Nah ma, not my cup of tea.” There’s also the possibility that the child does not feel a true connection to the student body. Or the school environment is not as inclusive as it appears, especially if you’re not a sports kid, but that’s a chat for another time.
And besides – just because it sounds cool to me does not necessarily mean it’ll be fun for them – or anyone else for that matter. Let’s face it, in reality, who is to say what fun is? That’s completely a personal decision and desire.
My two recognize how they want to spend their time, and if nothing else, they are true to themselves. For better or worse, neither will participate if it is not their scene nor their style. They won’t go along with something “just because everyone else does.” They are two of the strongest (albeit a bit stubborn!) people I know in their quiet way. How could I not be thankful that they are both in tune with their feelings, wants, desires, and boundaries?
For me, this homecoming scenario was a reminder that it is entirely acceptable to go against the grain. Sometimes the desire for them to be “in the grain” sneaks into my brain and heart only because it seems SO much easier. The grass is always greener, I guess. I need a refresher on this now and again, and I’m not afraid to admit it.
If your kid marches to the beat of their own drum, embrace it. That said, you’re human, and you may fall victim to societal and communal expectations. (Been there). Don’t sweat it. It happens, but your kid will happily remind you! (Been there too!). Along with our unconditional adoration and love, that’s our cue to listen.
Fully accept and wholeheartedly treasure who they are, even (or some might say especially!) if their travels steer them away from the mainstream route. That’s where my two shine, and there is no place I’d rather be than right there cheering them on.