Care and Feeding

My Daughter Refuses to Celebrate This Major Milestone in Her Life

And she won’t let anyone else even acknowledge it any way.

A woman wearing a graduation cap and gown, as seen from the back.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My daughter is about to graduate college, and she’s refusing to let anyone go to the ceremony or acknowledge it in any way. Even though she did well academically, she struggled emotionally and hated the school she attends. Overall, it was a pretty bad experience. She really didn’t make any friends or fit in. She wasn’t able to transfer due to financial reasons, and she changed her major so many times she had to go for an extra year, so she’s “mortified” (her word) that she didn’t graduate at the same time as everyone else.

I’m a little hurt that she won’t go to the ceremony or even let us acknowledge it. Her dad and I suggested just a nice dinner, but she also refused. She lives at home, so I guess I could technically make her go, but that feels wrong. I just want her to want to celebrate this milestone. Is there a way to get her to go, or should I just get over it?

—Mom of the Graduate

Dear M.G.,

Though you and your family surely supported your daughter during her time in college, ultimately, her graduation is her achievement and she should be allowed to decide how it is acknowledged or celebrated, if at all. It sounds like she may have a hard time even looking back at these years with pride, and that the best thing for her may be to simply close the door on this chapter of her life and move on. You can want her to want to celebrate in the same way you can want it to rain tomorrow, or you want there to be a new Batman movie—you can wish all you want, but you can’t bend this situation to your liking.

You and your husband can have dinner on your own in honor of her achievement and raise a glass to her and to yourselves without her being present. You can also purchase a gift, of whichever size or cost, that your daughter would enjoy having, then present it without making a big fuss: “I know you didn’t want a big to-do about graduating, but we wanted to give you a little something to say we love you and we’re proud of you. We won’t say anything else about it, and I hope you can accept this.” And then move on, because that’s what she wants to do.

—Jamilah