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My older daughter (phantomdaughter1, or PD1) graduated from high school on Saturday. My mother wanted to come, so of course we invited her. Things went pretty well, considering. But I'm still feeling ill at ease and hope you can lend me an ear, or an eye, or something cyberly helpful. First, I need to brag, and I thank you all in advance for listening to a proud mom.

PD1 is an exceptionally capable student. She also has a very active social and extracurricular schedule. She ended up with a 4.0 average at her high school, which is a magnet school for math and science that draws from four counties in northern Virginia -- about 15% of the applicants get in (PS1 didn't but PD2 did). She is a National Merit Finalist. She has taken five AP exams; of the three whose results we know (because she took them junior year and earlier), she got two 5s and a 4. (It's on a scale from 1 to 5.) She was accepted early action at a very competitive university. She is also fluent in French.

At her high school, she's pretty average. Of the graduating class of 392, 153 were National Merit Finalists (the most in the country for any high school for ten of the last 11 years, not adjusted for size of high school, so we compete with very large schools).

Without exception, every graduate is going to college. Seven of them are going to Harvard. About a quarter of them are going to the University of Virginia, which is one of the best state universities in the country and very hard for northern Virginians to get into, because we have a lot of highly-qualified students and the university understandably wants some geographical diversity. A sizable contingent is going to William and Mary, ditto.

The average number of AP exams taken per graduating senior is 6. (The average nationally is less than 1.) To graduate, you have to take 27 credits, including calculus and four years of science. (PD2 has a classmate who entered 9th grade having already taken calculus through an independent program.) The students have seven academic periods a day plus a sort of activity period. They are in school eight hours a day when they don't have afterschool activities, which rarely happens.

And these kids are not complete geeks. Okay, their football team stinks -- as PD1 says, this school does not breed for football. :-) They do very well in track and of course at the Intel competition, whatever it is, and that kind of thing. Their choirs are stellar even by my horrifically high standards. They have amazing school spirit -- they'll do anything for that school. They volunteer all over the place.

So there I was bragging about PD1 and her school, because I keep hoping against hope that my mother will be proud of her, too, and my mother kept talking about my sister's son and his school. (He just graduated the previous week and she traveled many miles to see him.) My nephew is by many accounts an indifferent student but an accomplished athlete and a loving son. I hardly know him, because I don't enjoy contact with my sister, but my mother thinks he's the greatest kid in the world with the possible exception of my brother's kids. My nephew is going to the University of Hawaii to play on their baseball team. I don't think it's any great shakes of a baseball power, and he didn't get any scholarship money. (Neither did PD1. Her alma mater-to-be doesn't give merit aid, and she has no financial need.)

I think my mother feels defensive because her high school was an average one and she went to an average college. You'd think she'd be proud that her granddaughter surpasses her, wouldn't you? But she doesn't seem to know how to do that. After the millionth time that she was going on and on about my nephew and his graduation, I finally turned to her and said, "Mother, I'm afraid that today I really don't care about my nephew. It's PD1's day." She was taken aback and said, "Well, that was the last graduation I went to. I'm just comparing the two." I let it go.

She was very pleased when the keynote speaker said that the guy who graduated at the bottom of his college class is now a multi-millionaire. She said quietly to me, "It's a good thing these kids are hearing that their future bosses may have C averages." I tried to keep my cool; I said, "I guess so -- but I don't see why they have to hear that kind of crap on the day they graduate. This should be a day when they hear how great they are." She wasn't crazy about that, either.

I find it easier to take her lack of motherly and grandmotherly behavior when I think of her as an elderly woman who is no relation but feels a connection to us for some unfathomable reason -- but it's hard to keep that up for hours on end, especially at a family event.

Oh, well, I'm just venting. Thanks for listening.

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