To be entirely honest, my recent graduation from the University of Canterbury, held in the soul-less Horncastle arena, felt more like one last act of forbearance than a celebratory occasion.
So boring it was that I worried my 14-year-old son would be put off university education for life.
He was there with his father and grandmother.
For nearly 3 hours, they did nothing else but clap for people they had never met or heard of in their lives. Then came my 15 seconds of fame to appear on the stage and quickly off it.
There was consolation in the form of a hair-raising karanga and a putatara playing. Both came from members of the audience to acknowledge two of the graduates.
A short musical interlude provided a momentary relief from the bum-numbingly boring ceremony.
The couple of speeches we heard could have injected some life into our sleepy brains, but they turned out to be the worst part of the ceremony- for me anyway.
The Chancellor’s speech sounded more commercial than inspirational.
There was a bit of self-advertising followed by canvassing for more students. A sign, surely, that our university leaders are more committed to bookkeeping than to the creation of wisdom.
The final speech came from Andre Lovett. He is the man in charge of the restoration of the historic Arts Centre and the Chairman of Regenerate Christchurch.
Great, I thought! This man would inspire us with his words.
Lovett’s speech was ok but, for me, the greatest thing about it was its length-short.
I won’t be at all surprised if Lovatt had written his speech in a taxi on the way to the ceremony. He is, after all, a very busy man.
The torturous ceremony eventually came to an end. We took lots of photos with family and classmates and, later on had a great graduation dinner.
All of the above felt quite familiar. This was my third graduation. The first one was 26 years earlier.
What surprised me was the flood of comments on Facebook about how clever I was and how hard I must have worked for my degree.
Yes, full-time study wasn’t easy and there were plenty of times when I felt time-stressed.
But, as for being difficult, nothing I have done in my entire life has come anywhere near the difficulty of raising a child.
My first degree in mathematics felt like a pleasant walk in the park compared to the physical and mental exhaustion of caring for a baby.
And yet, when my son turned one, I don’t remember anyone saying to me that they were so proud of me for achieving this amazing milestone or that I was “clever”, “amazing”, “tough”, “driven” and “committed”.
All I got was “he is so cute”, “beautiful child” and of course lots of Happy-Birthdays.
Imagine having a beautiful ceremony (not a boring one) for any primary care giver (mothers, fathers, grandparents etc) who raises a child through the most vital developmental stage of his or her life: the first 1000 days.
Through raising a child, I learnt more about my body, my mental capacity, nutrition, psychology, friendships, marriage, discipline, stress and life in general than I did by completing three degrees at university.
Surely the huge achievement that is raising a child deserves the same acknowledgement afforded to university graduates.