A mothers’ most hurtful graduation moment

As President of the School PTA where my twin boys attended, I had become quite popular among the staff and some students. My boys being twin were also very popular (they were straight A students which rapidly declined after they touched the seventh grade), so when it became known that they had a very bad reputation in school I was hoping that being on the School Leadership Team (SLT) and President of the PTA would have changed their behavioral pattern. But it progressively got worst, which led to them not graduating and had to be referred to summer school in order to be promoted to the next level, (high school). But the worst of it was when the Principal asked me to sit on the podium at graduation and even to address the graduates. 

I had to go to the school one day for a disciplinary action that was being taken against one of my sons. After the procedure I went to the office to say hello to the staff and that was when one of the Assistant Principal mumbled under her breath.

‘Yuh knoa de boys not graduating’ (she being Jamaican)

I said. ‘I know’, it was like a sigh of relief for her, she then walked over to me and started talking freely as if she had just won the lotto, they did not know how to approach me with the ”not graduating” story. But those boys were forewarned that if they did not buckle up they would not be promoted to high school. 

They even took money from me to pay for the graduation package knowing quite well they were not graduating. 

They started down paths which leads from superintendent suspension to being locked up in jail. They each had two lock-ups and two superintendent suspensions. It was so bad that every day when the school cabinet met to discuss the different school problems their names were on every list, lateness committee (they lived 3 blocks from the school 4 minutes walk), disciplinary committee, you name it; any committee that had to do with problems they were on it. If the fire alarm was pulled in school they were checked first if they were in the area. 

They were signed up for all the different afterschool programs and everything the school had to offer to help to enhance their education; but after a couple visits they would drop out and still led me to believe they were actively attending, until I enquired and was told that I was the one who took them out. (But it was the ‘Jeff Club’ they had secretly joined) 

During this time I was fighting these battles all by myself. Their father said they are Americans and they belong to “UNCLE SAM” so I can go ahead and get high blood pressure over them. He never tried to help with the disciplinary actions, but he would shower them with brand name sneakers and Chinese food. You all know when a father will turn a blind eye mothers always have to worry.


I worked in the City which is almost an hour from home, consequently my schedule was easily monitored by them, they would even go back home from school on some days after I leave for work, not to mentioned the crowd they carried into the house. My neighbors would call me or when they saw me they would complain about the noise and the indecent language from these boys. I would kick and screamed but to no avail. 

They continued down this destructive path which angered me daily. I could not smile with them; I could not speak to them like children anymore because there was always something going on with them. They were always scheming to go somewhere or do something which when I found out would send me flying in the sky. There was a group of boys headed by one name Jeff who always have something plan for them, he would tell his parents he was going out with Roger and Rodney’s parents, and told me Roger and Rodney was going out with his parents, which was all a lie. 

 I developed a disliking for this boy because no matter how hard I tried to tell him not to come to my house when I am not home he would not listen, he would just round up the rest of boys and head straight to my house and called out the boys or he would call them on the phone and plan the next move. These boys were being led and used by these other boys because they lived in a private house which always has food, computer, cable TV and a big backyard; so it was conducive for their hang out, and there being no adult supervision made it even better. 

I was home for seven weeks after knee surgery I acquired after tripping from parting a fight between the boys. Just imagine the agony when their friends came and saw me home each day. Sometimes I would watch through the window as the boys made signs to them signaling them that I was home. The long and short of it.. Their behavior was overwhelming. 

During this time I asked my church to pray for them, they were on a lot of prayer lists, I was praying, but sometimes it was so hard to pray after they angered me and I cursed them out so badly, telling them if they were in Jamaica I would string them up on a pole and skinned them and that would change them. 

At the last School Leadership Team (SLT) meeting, the principal asked me to sit on the podium and to give a short address to the graduates being the PTA president and also a member of the School Leadership Team which gave me first hand insight as to the running of the school. 

She saw the reluctant look on my face; and she said she would totally understand if I declined. I said I would think about it and she said ok. I left the meeting very angry with the feeling of me going to miss a great opportunity. I discussed it with all who would give me a listening ear and analyzed all their advices. There was also a brief scenario that crossed my mind. Would I be able to sit on the podium and smile with a straight face, hug and congratulate the fellow graduates or, would it be better to say no, now and save myself the pain. 

Every day I would become more angry and told the boys they had let me down, and now for me to miss this opportunity which I knew a lot of people would have loved to be in that spot, to speak at a graduation of over 150 students.. wow. 

Any way 2 days prior to graduation I told the Principal I would be there. 

I left work 2 hours early to be at the graduation which was scheduled to start at 4:pm. When I arrived I say some students from the boy’s class and they said Ms ….. Roger and Rodney not graduating; I said with a smile, “I know”. That was when I felt the first pain in my stomach. 

The teachers, principal, and other staff members started to arrive. I was warmly greeted and the pain dissipated a little. I got in the swing of things and the Principal asked me to lead the procession to the podium and then the graduates would follow. 

I walked with head held high as I led the dignitaries to the podium, and took our seats. The graduates marched in while the school band played the marching song. I looked down on them and my stomach started to ache again, tears were in my eyes but I managed to hold them back and smiled at the graduates. 

Then the program started. 

As I stood for the national anthem I could feel my feet shaking, my stomach aching, the tear duct was open, I felt dizzy, and I felt nauseous. I began to speak to myself, “no Yvonne, no, no, no, you have to be strong, you are doing well, you will be ok, it’s alright, and there are people in worst position than this and most of all you are a strong black woman and mother”. 

Because I did not confirm my attendance in time, my name was not on the program so I was called first to address the graduates. I had written a speech while I was on the train home from work but when they called me I had forgotten where I put the speech. Luckily the words were fresh in my head so I kind of read from memory. The speech was well received and the Principal said she was proud of me. 

As the evening wore on the feelings intensified, at one point I had to hold my head back so the tears that were freely running could run back in my hair instead of on my face. The principal asked me how I was holding-up and I lied and said ‘I’m good’. One of the assistant principal asked the principal how I was doing and she said, I was ok. 

I listened to all the encouraging words to the graduates from different speakers ranging from the  District Overseer, a special guest speaker, the Principal among others. Then the thought hit me again, my boys should be here to be a part of this, and they are not. When the awards and diplomas were being handed out I had to hug, shake hands and congratulate all of the graduates. That was the hardest of the evening’s task, however, I managed to put on a brave face and did what I had to do. I had one thought in my head through it all, ‘why should others be punished for someone else’s intentional mistake, these kids made it, and I should be happy for them no matter what the circumstance. 

When the ceremony was over I hastened outside with the motion that I wanted to use the rest room, in a last bid to get away from the crowd of picture taking families, friends and well wishers, and the questions where the boys were and how they felt knowing I was going to be a part of this and they were not. 

I managed to escape un-noticed and went home. When I got home the boys were on the block playing with Jeff and Co. my blood started to boil, my head was spinning and I wanted to kill them at that very moment. I ran them inside and that was when I started to cry and told them that they deprived me of the one moment that would make me a very proud parent. One of the boys said there will always be other graduation so what’s  the big deal. He made me crazy, I said this was the moment that I saw, I did not know what the future holds and I was deprived of it. 

I went into the kitchen, drank some water to cool my temper down. I then went to my room to figure out what my next move will be and to ponder over the evening’s event. All my friends were calling to find out how it went, but, I was an emotionally wrecked train so I retreated to my tracks to re-group. 

The phone was ringing, I opened my eyes and it was 7.05am, I had slept the entire night and when I woke up, the new day had arrived, new thoughts.. new beginnings. As for the boys they are in summer school, Jeff still in charge, my anger still in place, but still hoping that some change will come and I will not have to endure this kind of torture again.

About the Author
Yvonne Herivaux (formerly known as Turner, Turner-Parke) goes above and beyond for friends and family, works and plays hard, all with a contagious sense of humor.  Ms. Herivaux originally from Clarendon, Jamaica W.I. worked in Kingston before migrating to the U.S. In 1992 where she  found a home in Brooklyn New York and loved it.  Mother to five children, two of which are a set of twin boys, Ms. Herivaux knows about the challenges of striking balance with family life and career.  Currently employed as an administrative Staff secretary at the CTSC (Clinical and Translational Science Center) to handle a multitude of tasks for the busy research center at Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University.  Ms. Heravuiex’s latest venture is pouring out her life story. She states that, “maybe my story will help someone else.”