I have four kids. I have eleven nieces and nephews. The youngest of the bunch is 11, the oldest 28. I’ve also been lucky enough to spend a lot of time with my kids’ friends, from when they were little right through college. My point: I’ve spent some time with kids. My conclusion: Every one of those kids wants and/or needs to talk about what happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day, 2018. Every. One. Of. Them.
And so do their parents.
And teachers. Definitely teachers.
Parkland is no different from the town that I live in: an affluent beach community where the schools are highly ranked and parents, if even subconsciously, enjoy – and share with their children – the fact illusion that, by virtue of where they live, they have earned an extra layer of protection. It’s a fair and, in many ways, true assessment. But that comfortable, incorruptible life has been shattered and talking about it is not only an option, but a responsibility.
Jess, a high school sophomore, shared with me that not only has there been no conversation at school, but student attempts to start a dialogue, or even a monologue, have been shut down. In fact, during the first Advisory meeting following the massacre – and, let there be no mistaking the fact that it was nothing short of a massacre – the topic on the “long planned” agenda was, and I wish I were making this up, “what makes our high school special?”
Guess what? Our high school isn’t special. Despite the prestige of being “highly ranked” and having more amenities than schools in less affluent areas it is just as vulnerable, perhaps more, as any school anywhere. And the kids know it. In fact, there is a real case to be made that it is the middle- to upper middle class communities at the greatest danger – due not only to the bubble in which we live, but to the unwillingness and inability to talk about the elephant in the room. You know…the one with the assault rifle.
With each mass shooting comes a deeper fear, a more intense anger, a greater need to talk and a need to achieve the impossible: understand. Kids are scared. Parents are beside themselves. Grandparents do not recognize this world. And teachers should all be receiving pay raises and Medals of Honor for what they do.
I subscribe to the thinking that we are not raising children, but raising adults. When we obstruct communication around things that make us anxious or angry or uncomfortable (the birds and the bees talk, anyone?) we do our children a disservice. Nothing ever went away because no one talked about it. It is time to stop protecting these rising adults from the truths of the big, bad world. Actually, that time arrived about five school shootings ago.
Our children -aka the decision-makers, game-changers and leaders of the future –deserve better. Talk to your kids, but, more to the point, let them talk to you.