Passageworks Hike

by a graduating 5th grade parent

The 5th grade passageworks ‘hike’ is such a moving and emotional ritual and yet it is rarely talked about widely across the school. Before I had a 5th grader, I heard it mentioned on the playground in hushed tones, accompanied by knowing looks. What happens at the passageworks hike stays at the passageworks hike, and I am not about to break that trust, but I do want to give you a glimpse of how truly special it is.

Traditionally the ritual involves a gorgeous hike up Flagstaff to an inspiring spot at the summit where each parent shares heartfelt celebrations of their child to be witnessed by their peers. Then of course there is food, a picnic. Some of us start crying with the first speech and are a red-eyed mess by the end of it, but for every parent it is real, raw, open, vulnerable, meaningful and bonding. For our children, some of them squirm a bit and act embarrassed but in each of them you can see them swell with the affirmation that comes from hearing their parents stand up and thoughtfully and intentionally celebrate them in front of witnesses.

Last year it snowed, and not just a little a dumping of heavy May snow. 3ft fell the night before! We hiked through the snow, determined to preserve what we could of the tradition. At the top we took a moment to breathe and reflect, then we headed down full of disappointments, wishes and ‘if only’s’ to gather at a family’s home who had generously offered to host at the last minute. We shed all our snow gear and huddled in their living room. It was cozy, meaningful, heartfelt and bonding. There were tears and laughter, tissues and hugs and then food. It was glorious and not lacking in any way. It was a true celebration of the 5th graders and their journeys through a very special elementary school, the friendships they have made and the amazing people they have become.

This year, well, talk about disappointments and ‘if only’s’! No gorgeous, inspiring hike, no gathering, no picnic, no hugs. Honor welcomed us all on zoom, Mandy and Lindsey talked about the friendship and transition work that the 5th graders explore all year, Emma and Sara gave each 5th grader their unique naming, as each grade does at Friends School, honoring the individuality of every child. Then the parents shared, from our hearts. We witnessed each other’s love and pride in our children, we stood in each other’s shoes and celebrated each child, their journey, who they have become and what lies ahead. There were tears, and joy, and hugs, and we bonded with one another, through our love for our children, in new ways. We were a bit like the Whos in Whoville without all the trappings celebrating anyway, proving that maybe…perhaps..celebrating our children means a little bit more.

Thank you, Friends School for this incredible opportunity. As a parent I will never forget these moments. #FriendsTogetherFriendsApart

Challenging minds. Nurturing spirits. Honoring individuality.