Yeah, that title is accurate. Somehow or another, my oldest son suddenly became high school graduate age. At the same time, my youngest just graduated 8th grade and is on to high school. It’s been a whirlwind busy week of graduation related “stuff”, and none of it has completely sunk in. I may be actively denying that reality in my head, though. I’m not quite ready for any of them to be grown up. There are so many things I feel like I missed out on with them, things I wish I had done with them, lessons I think I failed to teach them, as well as realizing there likely will be fewer opportunities to do certain things with them, family things getting more difficult to coordinate, etc. It’s part of life, and they need to grow and become independent and pursue their own dreams, but I miss them being little (even though there were plenty of frustrations and headaches). I think it’s just my aversion to and inability to grasp the passage of time that I’ve always struggled with.

ANYWAY, the real point of this post was to reveal this little bit of art:

Somehow we have arrived at the point where my oldest son graduated high school (I’m not old, YOU’RE old). Another parent organized a little retrospective for the students in slideshow form, which required digging up lots of old pictures. There was also a request for “secret” pictures of family congratulating the graduating seniors as a surprise after a very difficult year, not only wrapping up their high school careers and being thrust into the next phase of their lives, but doing so during a pandemic. I decided I had to take a page out of his elementary school yearbook and do another custom PMD illustration for him. This one very much echoes that original one from 8 years ago, but is much more polished (and in color…and sporting my custom paper texture). I think I turned this one around in a day, as I kept losing track of time and putting it off until I saw an email that the deadline was the following day. Unfortunately, due to the way the slideshow was set up at the outdoor graduation, my son never got to see this image, or any of the other childhood pictures I had passed along. I have since shared this with him in kind of a full circle kind of moment, for me at least.

I also thought it would be cool to take a mini trip down memory lane through the lens of the various PMD drawings I did for my kids when they graduated 4th grade a lifetime ago.

Wow, has PMD changed over the years. When my oldest son graduated 4th grade/elementary school, the folks putting together the yearbook asked parents for little blurbs or “shout outs” to congratulate their kids and wish them well in middle school. I decided I had to make something a bit more unique, and I was pretty happy/amused with what I came up with. Looking at it now makes me cringe a little. Not only were PMD’s features quite different and my drawing style was a lot more rough and unrefined, BUT I HAD HIM TALKING?! I don’t remember when I had him switch to communicating via sign, but I don’t really remember him NOT using them.

This is the “shout out” for my middle son upon leaving 4th grade/elementary school. PMD looks a bit more like he does now, and my drawing style was a bit more refined, but still cringe-inducing to me. PMD still apparently wasn’t using signs to communicate, but those word balloons weren’t really him speaking, either. I do enjoy the humor I came up with for this, though.

This was the 4th grade/end-of-elementary school “shout out” I made for my youngest son, the cat lover (fun fact, for many years he would crawl around an meow in school whenever he was overwhelmed and stressed. He doesn’t do that anymore, but he still deals with a great deal of anxiety). This was a fun excuse to use the speedline brushes I made in Photoshop and to play around with some half-tones for a very manga feel.

For those paying close attention, that last one with PMD riding the cat I actually turned into a tshirt.

So, here we are, almost 18 years in to this whole “dad” thing. I don’t know if I’ve done a good job or not. I certainly am very aware of my failings in the parenting department, but they’re all still alive, so I could have done worse, right? I spent the first 10ish years of being a parent not really making any art to speak of (other than those Mother’s Day cards for my wife), being overwhelmed with being a stay-at-home dad to 3 boys all 2 years apart in age. As they have gotten older and more independent, I have since been able to spend more and more time focused on what I dreamed about doing when I was a kid. I hope my kids see that and are paying attention. I hope they pursue things they are passionate about, and just generally chose to be healthy, fit, kind, and compassionate people. If they accomplish that, I don’t know if it will be because of me or in spite of me, but I’ll be happy with how they turned out.