All parents should be their child’s cheerleader.
But not at graduation.
At least not out loud.
That’s the message parents at the South Florence High School in South Carolina were sent on Saturday night when at least one mother was arrested and others were escorted from the Florence Civic Center for cheering too, ummm, enthusiastically as their kids received their diplomas.
According to comments on the website of the local TV station WPDE, the school’s principal opened the event by announcing that the senior class had voted to request quiet during the reading of names. All applause, he said, should be saved until the end, and anyone who was disruptive would be asked to leave.
Comments on the WPDE website describe parents who apparently couldn’t help themselves, making noise even while they were being shown the door by local police. Some “screamed and shouted all the way out the door (entire families) and not hearing the next few graduates,” wrote Becky DeFee Thompson. “One lady took her new born baby and held it up in the air like simba in the lion king and was screaming at the rail in the upper level ! Was disgraceful.”
What Thompson (and the majority of other commenters) saw as disgraceful, however, some saw as just plain parental pride. “It’s counter-productive when we can’t cheer for our children when they FINALLY ACCOMPLISH what we BEAT INTO THEIR HEADS for 12 years!!!” wrote Allen Hayes. “So what if the celebration last 4 hours OR LONGER!!! Allow the graduates to KNOW that their parents are DAMN PROUD OF THEM!!!”
Agrees Shannon Cooper, who was handcuffed, taken to the Florence County Detention Center and charged with disorderly conduct for whooping a bit as her daughter, Iesha, got her diploma: “Disorderly conduct? What’s the disorderly conduct? How was I so disorderly, you know, any different from just a happy parent?”
So many parenting questions, so short a walk across the graduation stage.
By cheering am I saying “my kid is important to me” or “my kid is more important than yours”? Is educational accomplishment something to be celebrated with Philharmonic rules or football stadium ones? Is the message “look what YOU did” or “look what WE did”? Are there cultural differences in what is considered a celebration and what is considered a disruption? If you scream at higher volume, do you love you kid more? Do we cheer for our children too often or not enough?
My son graduates from high school in two weeks, and part of me wants to fist bump Shannon Cooper, and be right in there with the parents who are on their feet cheering. After all it has been both an endless and a fleeting 12 years, and it’s so tempting to celebrate out loud.
But it is not just the fear of arrest (they arrested her? really?) that will keep me decorous and polite. It is because I want to whoop for ALL of them — the whole class, most of whom I have known since kindergarten. They are entangled with the young man my boy has become; they have shaped and enriched his way.
And since I can’t hoot and holler and sustain that level of mania through nearly 200 names, I will shut up and bask instead. As each classmate is called, I plan to grab hold of a memory and savor it, all the while screaming wildly — but silently — with pride.