I’m writing to you because you are old enough to know the truth. Actually, you aren’t. You are innocent children who deserve a childhood without fears and nightmares. But the truth is unavoidable, and at this moment there is nothing else I can say. So here it is.
I cannot protect you from a gunman. Not at preschool. Not at a concert. Not even in temple. There is no amount of guns that can make you safe because those same guns will always find a way into the wrong hands. If someone wants to kill you while you are peacefully playing tag in the playground, I cannot help you. If you are having fun at a concert with your friends or enjoying the latest movie in the theater, I cannot protect you. You could get shot, and you might die.
My beautiful daughter, I can almost guarantee you will experience lots and lots of sexual harassment. You will have unwanted attention from strangers who will look at your body and sexualize it. You will probably have a boss who will discriminate against you because you are a female or while you are pregnant or after the birth of your beloved child. You may even be raped by a stranger, or worse, someone you know. And if you choose to speak up you may not be believed. You may lose everything in the process. There are people in powerful positions who will work to silence your voice. Even if you present the most compelling evidence and you are believed, sometimes nothing will change. Because lots of people don’t care.
I’d like to tell you that you get to make decisions about what happens to and in your body, but I can’t. The right to an abortion is a fragile one, and there’s a chance you may lose that right. Even if your life is at risk, you may not be able to have life-saving surgery because some will value your fetus more than you. Don’t think you can rely on contraception to avoid an unwanted pregnancy because that right may go away too. Depending on where you live or where you work you may not have access to an IUD or the pill. And you may not always have enough money for condoms. This makes me terribly sad, and I’m sorry.
My science-loving boy, I’d like to tell you that science and data matter. That people rely on high-quality research conducted by respected institutions around the world to make decisions about our planet. But that’s not always true. There are many people who look at widely accepted beliefs about climate change and deny the existence of overwhelming data. Some people will govern with the narrow focus of getting themselves reelected. They make the rules that we all have to live by. Your grandchildren may not have any water to drink or a dry place to build a house. I know it’s scary but that is already happening to many.
You have the right to vote and voting matters. You still have this right, but some will make it difficult to actually cast your ballot. People will change the rules at the last minute to favor their political party. They will try to minimize dissenting voices by making it difficult to vote by asking for identification or limiting voting hours or moving polling locations without notice. People will say every vote counts but sometimes it doesn’t. The popular vote can go to one candidate but an antiquated system will have the electoral college pick a different winner.
In these horrible times I wake up nearly every day with astonishing disappointment and pain. So it’s really hard to continue to pretend that these terrible things won’t happen here. I cannot look into your beautiful innocent eyes and say, “It can’t happen to you.” It can. It happened to school kids just like you in Miami and Newtown and Columbine. It happened in the supermarket in Kentucky and in a temple in Pittsburgh. It happened to a professor, just like me. The congressman in our district doesn’t believe in climate change. It’s all around you, and I can’t lie to you.
But in all of this painful uncertainty, there are some truths that might help you.
I will speak up to do my best to protect you. I’ll do this by fighting the school district or suing my employer for discrimination or by writing about injustice. Speaking up may not always change things but it will show people that I care and support them. That’s not nothing. If I see something that is hurting someone, I’ll say something. If I can right a wrong, I’ll do it. It will not always be easy. But that’s usually when it’s most important. I will do this for you and you must do it for others.
I will vote until my last breath. I still believe change can come. People sacrificed in significant ways to give us the right to vote. I’ll do what I can to protect that vote, and I’ll exercise my right in every single election.
I will create a home where everyone is welcome to Sunday dinner or Passover regardless of faith or race or sexuality. I’ll make Christmas dinner for our Christian friends or Iftar for the Muslim ones. Why? Because our lives are made better by people who are not exactly like us. I’ll teach you to be open-minded and have an open heart. I’ll be kind and generous whenever I can and sometimes when I think I can’t. I’ll show you that you can make a change in this world even if it’s just to one person. To that person, that might be the difference between life and death.
I will try to live my life to the fullest because bad things can happen. I can’t prevent a lot of the bad things I mentioned. But they are less painful when we live our truest best life. Go out and live your lives and enjoy it. We owe that to the people who have been lost.
I love you. I pray that’s enough to comfort you.
Andrew Harnik/Getty Images
If you saw Brett Kavanaugh testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week you undoubtedly noticed his anger. According to Kavanaugh, he is being wrongfully accused of attacking Christine Blasey Ford at a gathering with some friends in 1982. What stands out from his appearance, and there was a lot to take in, is Kavanaugh’s visible rage. His facial expressions were so intense he looked like Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men right before he yelled, “You can’t handle the truth.” Kavanaugh was the personification of Cujo, the dog from the Stephen King novel in the most unbecoming nature for a Supreme Court Judge. I think I keep turning towards movies to process his indignation because I’m having trouble with the extent of how much he lost control in that moment.
Of course, anyone who believes he is being wrongfully accused of something would be angry. And it would be reasonable even for someone to crack under the pressure of the enormity of the confirmation hearings. If something I worked my entire life to achieve was hanging by a thread I’d be hostile too. But there is more to Kavanaugh’s anger that needs to be explored. I believe part of the reason he is so filled with fury is because he truly may have no memory whatsoever about the night in question. It’s so completely not ingrained in his mind that he cannot fathom that it actually could have happened much like it is being reported.
In the 1980s I went to hundreds of gatherings just like the one described by Ford. Living in New York City it was easy enough for minors to find some alcohol. We drank for fun, and we often drank in excess. Of all the nights we did that I probably only remember a handful of actual moments from that time. They all blend into one large memory. That’s because during that time I wasn’t assaulted. Nothing out of the ordinary happened to jog my memory. I’ve learned in the last few years of several girls I knew who were victims of attacks. Some girls were victims of slut-shaming or unwanted sexual advances as well. I can promise you those girls remember the exact party where the incidents happened but many of their aggressors might not. (To those girls, I’m sorry I didn’t know, and I’m sorry I didn’t do more regardless.) How could they remember but I don’t? Surely, I was at some of those parties.
In college I remember one time being so drunk that after kissing a boy I turned to the side to be sick. Immediately after throwing up I looked up to find the boy was ready to kiss me again. I remember being disgusted by that fact. Who would want to kiss a girl who had just puked right in front of him? However, I wasn’t disturbed that I couldn’t possibly give consent in that state. Consent wasn’t even a concept I considered much. If you ask that boy if he remembered the incident he would likely say it didn’t happen. Why would he say that? Because he wouldn’t have remembered it. That night probably wasn’t different for him than any other night of the school year. He and his fraternity boys drank every single weekend to excess and every single weekend there were girls around to pursue. It’s like Ground Hogs Day. Wake up and do it all over again. Just change out some of the girls, but really the faces didn’t matter that much anyway.
I believe that is the explanation for why Christine Blasey Ford is 100% certain her attack happened and 100% certain that Brett Kavanaugh is the attacker. Meanwhile Kavanaugh claims he doesn’t even recall the get together. For Kavanaugh that summer was all parties and workouts and Beach Week. Kavanaugh and his pals drank to excess on so many occasions one particular night 36 years ago perhaps wouldn’t be recollected. He also pursued girls to add to his purported conquest list with the regularity of a part-time job. You know, the whole boys will be boys thing. Since Ford got away, nothing much of note happened. Right? Of course, not right. For Ford that night changed her entire life, so much so that in 2012 she was still discussing the assault with a therapist.
Brett Kavanaugh was so aggressively trying to deny being at the party because he may not remember it. It’s not because he may have blacked out but more likely that night was similar to so many. This is also the exact reason he would not ask for an FBI investigation. Because he knows in the back of his mind that he pursued girls with zeal in those days and that he drank excessively. He knows there is a possibility that something could have happened, and he just doesn’t remember it because it wasn’t out of the ordinary. Imagine how scary that must feel. What looks like rage during his testimony might have been more like a desperate attempt to hide the fear of not knowing for sure if you are innocent. The more afraid one is the more belligerent he appears.
It’s unclear what kind of investigation will occur in the next week with the FBI. It’s also unclear if this incident, whether shown to be true or not, will have an impact on Kavanaugh’s nomination. But what is 100% crystal clear is that this hearing has had an enormous impact on millions of women. One can only hope the same impact will be felt by millions of men as well and in 36 years from now so much of our culture will have changed.
Parenting is an endless stream of shopping, cooking, laundry, tucking in, checking homework, kissing boo-boos, running baths, making lunches, scheduling and doctor appointments. It’s disciplining and breaking up sibling battles. It’s cajoling picky eaters to just have one bite of steak. It’s helping anxious kids onto the bus for the first day of preschool and then calling an hour later to check in. It’s the toughest job, and we often don’t know if we are doing it right. I mean, besides the day-to-day chores, it’s hard to know whether we are imparting knowledge and wisdom to our kids. Will they know to give up their seats to pregnant women on the bus? Will they grow up to be good people who stand up for injustice? Will they be able simply to stand up for themselves?
Years ago, I learned how a good parenting talk doesn’t always land as we hope. When my daughter Casey was 7 she went to day camp with a good friend, Allegra. It is customary for kids to take a deep-water test to show they are ready to swim without intense supervision. My daughter could pass the test, but she was resistant. After a few days of her avoiding the test I had a long talk with her before bed. She told me she wasn’t taking the test because Allegra wasn’t taking it yet. I explained that sometimes it’s good to move forward when one is ready. I said her friend would want her to take the test. In fact, I mentioned that if she took the test it might help encourage Allegra.
The next morning, I again nudged her to take the swim test. Off she went to camp. I waited not-so-patiently for the bus to arrive home to find out if my parenting talk did the trick. Did she take the test? Well, Casey hopped off the bus with a big smile. “I passed the test,” she said.
“Hooray,” I replied. I was patting myself on the back. It was my talk that did it. I knew it. But I couldn’t let it rest. So, looking for an affirmation I asked Casey, “What made you decide to take the test?” She promptly put me back in my place, “Allegra did it!”
There you have it. I hadn’t influenced her a bit.
Most of the time, that’s how parenting goes. We talk and there’s no sign that anyone is listening. Kids nod and say, “Yup”—but really, we don’t know if we are making an impact. This week, eight years after the swim test, Casey helped me see that I am indeed giving her more than just a ride to practice and a hot meal after.
A few years ago, Casey was dress coded in middle school. Frustrated at the objectification of girls’ bodies I wrote a letter to the principal, and it went viral. Since then, we have had many conversations about dress code. The emerging #MeToo movement added an additional discussion point on the situation. This year the dress code was drastically altered in our district, allowing kids to wear just about anything. Administrators were explicitly told in the written policy that they are no longer allowed to “accuse students of ‘distracting’ other students with their clothing.”
So it was quite a surprise to Casey when at a back-to-school assembly, the new vice principal announced tight clothing would not be allowed because it could be distracting. Without a moment of pause, Casey raised her hand and asked, “Can you explain what about tight clothing is distracting?” Turns out the VP wasn’t quite ready for this question, and he replied with a rambling tangent. Casey raced into the house after school to tell me about the assembly. She was beaming with pride that she pushed back about the distracting comment. And then I was beaming. As parents we worry constantly about making all the right decisions regarding our kids. Mostly we worry about the minutia —Is this teacher a good fit? Will my kid make the water polo team? Why wasn’t my child invited to the birthday party? Solving those issues are all important. But it’s really a much bigger, broader question that looms. Namely—Will our kids be alright?
When I used to teach a social work ethics class I told my students that ethics was putting our values into action. Our values are what we stand for, even when it’s hard and maybe not convenient. When confronted with an issue that affects her and all her friends, Casey stood up and used her voice. I had talked, and she was listening. I could not have been more proud.
Sometimes as parents we wonder what we would do for our children if given the chance. Of course I’d give an organ, arm or leg for my kids.
But would I spend $25 to check an overpriced bottle of barbecue sauce at the airport?
After five blissful days celebrating my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary in Maui we arrived at the Kahului Airport with a bit less than the requisite two-hour window. We returned our Chevy Malibu to Budget and hopped onto the bus waiting to take us to the terminal. We completed the agricultural scan, printed out our boarding passes and checked our bags to LAX. Everything went remarkably smoothly.
Our luck continued with all four of us snagging TSA Precheck. My daughter and husband placed their bags onto the belt to be scanned. Emmett, my son, loaded up the bag we were sharing, and we all passed through the metal detector. And then it happened. My bag with Emmett was placed in the bad lane. We had something impermissible, but what? A stray bottle of water maybe. Nope. It wasn’t water or sunscreen or something else inconsequential, either. When the TSA security guard pulled out the banned item, my heart sank.
One day during our vacation Emmett and I had a surfing lesson in the morning. After chilling in the hotel for a while I convinced him to come to town with me for a Dole Whip. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at the local supermarket for some snacks. Emmett asked, “Can I look for a bottle of barbecue sauce to take home as a souvenir?” Sure, I told him. Last year when I went to Austin for a conference I brought him back sauce from The Salt Lick. He’s been slowly rationing the bottle since then. Some kids want keys chains or T-shirts or bracelets to remember their vacations. My son wants a condiment. I couldn’t be prouder.
So when the $8 Da Kine bottle was lifted out of my bag I thought, “Oh crap. Emmett will be crushed.” The TSA attendant read the look on my face, and told me I could go back out to the check in area and see if they could find my bag. If not, I could check it for $25. I gave my husband the boarding passes for him and the kids. I took mine and the bottle of sauce and left the secure area on a mission. No condiment left behind, right?
At the check in I meet Aleah, the Hawaiian Airlines employee contracted by American Airlines. I explain my plight. She isn’t moved. But she takes my bag tickets and says she will go out a take a look. Ten minutes pass. Then 15. I’m sweating and starting to lose faith. Finally Aleah shows up with bad news. She can’t find our bags. They have probably been taken already to board the plane. I go with Plan B. I ask Aleah if there is any way she can just check the sauce for me as a courtesy without charging me a fee. I explain I’m a loyal American customer with frequent flyer miles. Aleah says no, but agrees to ask her manager anyway. Before walking away she asks me what I will check the sauce in. She can’t just check a bottle. Then she walks away.
It’s now 11:46 am. My flight is boarding in 30 minutes, and I still have to go back through security. Finally she appears with more bad news. Her manager said she wouldn’t courtesy check the bottle for me but she would allow Aleah to go out once more to look for my bags. Aleah makes it clear this is a one-time privilege. I once again give her my bag tags and wait.
Tick, tick, tick. Aleah is nowhere to be found. I decide then and there that if Aleah comes back without my bag I will just check the darn sauce. The thought of seeing my son’s little lower lip quiver in sadness when he realizes his one special purchase was left in the airport was too much for me. I cleaned out my purse preparing to check it.
It’s noon, and I get a text from my husband—WHERE ARE YOU?. I’m starting to stress. At this point I just want Aleah to come back so I can check the bag, pay my $25 fee and run to catch my plane. But just then, like a Love’s in the desert, Aleah appears with one of our bags. I tell her she is a miracle worker. I tuck the Da Kine barbecue sauce made with real Hawaiian pineapple juice into the bag, close it up and thank Aleah. I pass through security with ease and run to the gate with a triumphant smile.
Would it have been ridiculous to buy a costly bottle of barbecue sauce then spend an extra $25 to check it? Probably. But I would have done it. I don’t think I would have regretted it either.
That would have been a great ending to this story. But it isn’t the end. Upon landing when our bag arrived on the carousel I noticed it was opened. Lo and behold, all the contents of the bag were there…except (you guessed it) the barbecue sauce. So there you have it. That’s parenting in a nutshell.
As The Family Coach it’s been my mission to help families enjoy parenting more. Sometimes I’m smart enough to take my own advice.
Last week we went to the fair as a family. My daughter, being a teenager, went off with a friend. That left my son, Emmett, alone with my husband and me. We wanted to make it fun for him. My husband suggested we buy an extra ride pass for us to share. I don’t do rides (everything makes me sick) so my husband bravely accompanied Emmett on the Crazy Coaster and the Cliffhanger. But I could see my son really wanted me to do something with him. I decided I could handle the giant slide.
Slowly Emmett and I climbed up steps that seemed like 17 stories. We sat side-by-side at the top in our sacks. My heart was racing. My son looked at me and asked, “Ready?” I said I was, although I wasn’t. Then we pushed off and slid down together. I screamed the whole way like a little kid. At the bottom we both giggled and hugged and smiled. It was such a great experience and I was totally satisfied in my participation.
With Rayshawn, out newest beloved stuffed animal
My husband then shared the pictures he took and I was so touched. Aside from my cheesy grin what struck me most in the pictures was how my son was looking back at me for most of the ride. He started out with both fists in the air filled with joy. But then he turned around to find me. He was checking on me, making sure I was OK and sharing the fun with his mom. This picture is such a reminder to me to put my phone down, stop nagging my kids about this and that, and just have some fun with them.
Our passes came with two games for each of us. Emmett and I played the one where you point the water gun at the little circle. I won and gave Emmett my prize. At the end of the night we finished the fair as we always do. Emmett and I rode the giant ferris wheel together at sunset, just the two of us. He calls it my Jam and he’s right. It’s just my speed, it’s 10 minutes and it’s my favorite alone time with my little buddy. Soon enough he will be the teenager going off with his friends. Then my husband and I will just twiddle our thumbs at the fair eating large smoked turkey legs and visiting the bunnies until our kids are ready to go. It will be fine, but not the same.
BattleBots is one of the best family shows on television. After a year hiatus, thankfully Discovery Networks (Discovery and Science Channel) decided to revive the show. BattleBots like a mashup of mixed martial arts and a monster truck battle. Two remote controlled robots are put into a bulletproof cage and let loose on each other until one bot dies. There are fireworks and head on collisions, loose wheels flying, flame throwers and screaming and laughter and … I could go on and on.
We were invited to be guests at live taping of the show in Long Beach, California. I went into the old airplane hanger happy to escort my 11-year-old robotics-obsessed son to the event. I had no illusion that I, too, would have a blast. I was so wrong. It was one of the most entertaining events I’ve been to with or without my kids. Now we are excited to see how the season plays out. Who will battle who? What damage will be inflicted? What crazy antics will we see? We can’t wait.
There is so much I loved about BattleBots. Old people compete against young people. Men versus women. Kids and families against large BattleBot crews. Some have competed for years. Others are newbies in their first battle ever. There was a 15-year-old girl sitting in front of me with a giant pink bow in her hair. She was as enthralled in the action as my son. And what’s cool is that on a basic level BattleBots are just good entertainment. But the show also highlights how physics, engineering and robotics all play a vital role in the design of these massive 250 pound machines.
The Sharkoprion team
The names of the bots are inspiring. Some favorites are Sharkoprion, Huge (with the best tag line: We’re Kind of a Big Deal), Ultimo Destructo, Petunia, Minotaur and Kraken. We were lucky enough to sit next to Peter Lombardo from the Huge team. My son spent three hours picking Peter’s brain about robotics and building. And to his credit, Peter patiently and enthusiastically responded to each and every question. It was like they live in this universe were science is the coolest thing there is, and it was so awesome to witness.
You can catch Battlebots on both the Discovery and Science channels. Season 3 began on May 11 so check it out to see which bot survives until the end. The show airs at 8 pm.
My son Emmett’s review for your kids:
Battlebots is a TV show where groups of people make big robots. They use different blades and weapons to try to make the other robot immobile. They are in this big square ring with hammers and blockers on the sides. You try to drive around and hit the opponents with a weapon. You win if your opponent stops moving and becomes stuck.
Anyone can do it, and you can build what you want. There are so many different things that can happen. It’s fun seeing what different tools each robot has. It’s just a fun environment. It was so cool to see the inside of every robot. In real life they are actually big, not as tiny as I thought.
It’s always unpredictable and crazy seeing each bot that someone works so hard on gets blown up. No one cares. It’s just fun to compete. It was amazing to see how someone can completely destroy the opponent, rip them apart or melt them. It’s just really entertaining.
Going to conferences always brings out my deeply hidden insecurities. On any typical day I am a fairly confident person. I work hard. I try to be nice to people. Life is generally good. But in the weeks leading up to any conference I’m a little shaky. I start obsessing about clothing (which I never do). I worry about meaningless stuff. My head gets the best of me.
Leading up to Mom 2.0 my mental firestorm always goes on overload. There are a few reasons why. To start with I really respect the people who attend. I read their words and listen to their podcasts and marvel at their Instagram feeds. I just sink into thinking, I’m unworthy. Oh course I’m worthy. We all are. But that doesn’t stop my inner critic from spewing belittling thoughts late at night.
The second and equally plaguing problem heading into Mom 2.0 is I really care about promoting my book. It took 20 years to learn enough to write it, and it’s my book baby. I want to tell everyone about it. But that’s the problem. It’s really hard to tell people about your book. It’s awkward. I’m awkward.
Lastly, there is always a time when it feels like everyone else has someone to go to the _______ (fill in the blank big event) and I don’t. Sure, I could ask to join someone. But that sometimes feels like offering to feed the bears. It could go really well or you could get mauled.
Still, excitedly, I drove to the conference, held this year in the lovely Langham Pasadena (thanks for the pens). The conference didn’t disappoint. I called my husband a few times, and he would say I was giddy. I met incredibly nice and interesting people. I presented on a panel with women I didn’t know, and it all worked perfectly. I went in determined to push myself out of my comfort zone, and I did. But the problem with leaving the comfort zone is that it’s uncomfortable there.
So when I went home and started thinking about all I said and did. I became mortified. I obsessed just like I did before the conference but this time I had actual experiences to harp on. Like the time I horrendously whipped out my book to give to a person I admire. Ugh, sorry. Or the time I tried to tell someone their Dove hair looked great but my compliment came off all wrong. Sorry, again. I could go on and on. I somehow was turning a great experience into middle school.
Before I sunk too deep into my breakdown, I flipped through my little notebook and remembered my two biggest takeaways from the conference. I replayed Brené Brown’s inspiring words: Talk to yourself like you talk to someone you love. I would never talk to someone the way my mind was talking to me. The other advice that really hit home was from Katherine Wintsch. In her Slay Like A Mother presentation she told us to stay in the present, “right here, right now.” And just like Brené Brown she told us to acknowledge the voice and then direct it to a friend.
If my friend told me all the crap I was telling myself, here’s what I would say:
You are being ridiculous. Even if you embarrassed yourself, who cares.
If you feel so badly asking for someone to help you out then offer to help someone else.
Give yourself a break.
All of the sudden I became the friend I needed. I started to return to my conference high shedding that awful critic. I incorporated what I just learned. And that’s what conferences are all about. It’s growth in ways you didn’t even know you needed.
Being a working mother these days is often about finding your inner voice and silencing the real or imagined chatter. I am so thankful to be able to have these learning experiences. Professionally, I prioritized my work and found the direction I needed. Personally, I picked up a new tool to fight my worst inner voice and a way to be a better me. Thank you Mom 2.0 for all of this.
On a side note: What makes me feel better about asking for help is also giving it. Here is what I have to share. If you are interested, message me on Facebook @thefamilycoach or send me an email here.
- 1-page book review request sheet
- Sample successful pitch letters
- My book proposal for a nonfiction book
- Ask me to do a book review for your book baby
Photo Credit: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
I’ve been watching the Parkland survivor advocates feeling simultaneously in awe of their courage and fearful for their futures. I am absolutely astonished at their strength, power and passion. They have been able to achieve what many exceptionally accomplished adults have not. They have advanced the discussion on gun control, and they deserve our never-ending gratitude. Yes, we owe them for what they are trying to do for our children and country. But we also owe them for the potential damage they are unknowingly inflicting upon themselves.
Emma González, the face of the movement, is barely a day into adulthood. She believes she can change the world, and she’s certainly putting in her effort. But at 18, she doesn’t know about the pain of banging your head against the wall trying to help people understand why they should collectively care. She doesn’t know that she just lost her last bit of privacy, and that her life will never go as she originally planned. She doesn’t know how PTSD may affect her in the future or even what the effects will be of having lived through a mass shooting and watching friends die. She hasn’t had a second of time to grieve. As a social worker and parent I can’t help but worry about what the recent fame and opportunity is costing her and her friends.
In an essay for Harper’s Bazaar, González laments: “I’m 18 years old, Cuban and bisexual. I’m so indecisive that I can’t pick a favorite color, and I’m allergic to 12 things. I draw, paint, crochet, sew, embroider—anything productive I can do with my hands while watching Netflix. But none of this matters anymore.” Right now her life is all about gun control. At the same time, she is still developing her identity of who she is and who she wants to be. She still naively thinks everything will return to normal as soon as the adults wake up and change the laws. She writes, “We want to fix this problem so it doesn’t occur again, but mostly we want people to forget about us once this is over. We want to go back to our lives and live them to the fullest in respect for the dead”
An icon at 18, González has a verified Twitter account followed by 1.4 million. Emma and her friends don’t know what twitter trolls can do. Unfortunately, they are getting a crash course. Just yesterday a doctored animated video made the rounds on social media. It featured González ripping up a copy of the constitution. The name calling can be venomous by the anonymous. However, loads of people have no problem attaching their names to vicious hate speech. Take Leslie Gibson, former candidate for the Maine house and a man who called González a “skinhead lesbian” on Twitter. That’s one of the nicer comments I read.
Being an advocate and activist has a price, and Emma González and the other young people fronting this movement will pay it for us. It may take years but the price will come. I worry about anxiety and depression. I worry about PTSD and suicidal ideation. I worry about social isolation and credible threats to their safety. I worry about the toll of prolonged anger without outlets and something positive to balance it. These worries aren’t hyperbole or dramatic exaggeration. It’s the sad reality of being a nationally-recognized activist.
A recent article in the New York Times chronicled the pain and suffering of young people who were suddenly thrown into the activist rolls. Due to various causes, five people from the Black Lives Matter movement have died in just the last two years. The kids from Parkland are already receiving death threats. González reported on 60 Minutes that she fears bombs being thrown through their office windows. This weight would be extremely difficult for an adult to handle, let alone adolescents. There is a lot of sacrifice and suffering that accompanies anyone shouting for change in the public eye. But the effects are more intense when the advocates are still coming of age.
It remains unclear how the #NeverAgain movement will affect Emma González and her peers from Parkland. They are doing a service for their country, and they should be recognized as such. I just hope the price tag for their effort isn’t irreparable damage.
Sometimes a small change can make a massive difference. Today I found out my school district changed it’s dress code policy. What might look like minor language alterations actually add up to a huge development.
Last year my 13-year-old daughter was objectified, mortified and singled out due to her size (tall) and gender. First we were told girls couldn’t wear yoga pants because the boys can’t control themselves. Then various school administrators gave my daughter two dress code violations stating that her shorts were too short. Frustrated and embarrassed by what she had to wear the rest of the day my daughter wrote an email to the principal expressing her thoughts on the dress code. The principal wrote back that it was out of her hands as she was just following district policy (LAME).
I was livid and fed up with the policy and its implementation. I wrote a tongue in cheek letter to the principal inviting her to take my daughter shopping. The letter struck a chord, for better or worse, with so many. I received hundreds of notes from women and girls thanking me for expressing their frustration. I also received loads of well-meaning folks telling me I was raising a slut and a snowflake. Everyone is entitled to their opinion although I respectfully disagreed.
The dress code singles out girls. Although tall and overweight girls are disproportionately more likely to be cited. The not-so-subtle message of the dress code is that girls’ bodies are a distraction and girls need to be responsible for making boys comfortable. In the age of #MeToo it is clear that we need to be sending different messages to both the boys and the girls.
This year my daughter entered high school where miraculously the dress code isn’t enforced much. Life went on. However, I just spotted an understated post on the middle school Facebook page that simply says, “Dress Code approved 1/16/2018.” I clicked on the link and immediately smiled from ear to ear.
The new dress code states that kids must wear a shirt, pant, shorts or a skirt, and shoes. No one can wear clothing with profanity, violent images, any illegal item or hate speech. That’s pretty much it.
The best part of the new policy actually doesn’t relate to the dress code, but to how it can be enforced. School staff may NOT publicly call out a student for attire. Staff may NOT require students to bend, kneel or measure skirts or straps. And most important, school staff may NOT accuse students of distracting other students with their clothing. When I read that part I became teary from I place I didn’t know was still hurting. This is a huge advancement and a win for all the kids in the district.
I don’t think my letters to and about the principal had any influence over this policy. But I do think that our collective voice across the country is being heard. This policy shift may seem small and insignificant. But right now I feel hopeful, and that’s not nothing.
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I’m so sick of writing useless commentaries on how parents can talk to their kids about the latest episode of senseless violence. At this point, when there’s a shooting (at school or in a church or at a concert), there are no good ways to talk to kids.
Could this happen at our school? Yes
Am I safe? Not exactly.
Should I be scared? Kind of.
There have been 18 school shootings in just the first 45 days of 2018. Death or injury occurred at seven shootings and attempted or completed suicide happened at two. So, are my kids safe from gun violence? I don’t really think so. Are yours? No, they aren’t either.
I can’t explain to my kids that some people value their right to own guns, any kind of gun, over the safety of our citizen. I can’t explain this because I can hardly believe it. It hurts to much to imagine. But it’s true. Some people want fewer restrictions. They want to be able to bring guns across state lines and into cities. They aren’t interested in waiting periods or background checks. They want to be able to buy any gun that has ever been manufactured for any reason.
I can’t explain to my kids that words written in 1791 are the reason we have to have “active shooter” drills at school. There is no way to discuss this issue with kids because they ask the obvious questions, and I don’t have good answers.
Why does someone need a gun that can fire so many bullets? Ummmm….
How come nothing has changed since so many were murdered in Sandy Hook? Ummmm…..
I can’t explain to my kids that politicians make the big decisions but those decisions are clouded by a competing interest. People in politics have to run for office, and that’s expensive. I can’t explain that the people we elect are beholden to the people or entities who help pay the costs of running for office. There is no good way to explain this without shouting and ripping my hair out.
The moral compass of this country is buried, and there are no comforting answers for children. Sometimes I want to pretend that nothing happened to spare my kids. But I can’t do that either. They’ll end up hearing about it from their friends on the bus or even during a commercial during Jeopardy. We can’t shield children now from being killed or being frightened by it either.
I want to believe that change can happen, and there is a tipping point on the horizon. But more and more every day I feel like I’m living in a dystopian novel. Except this is reality. It’s really happening that time and time again not one change happens after a tragedy. An armed security guard at my children’s schools will not stop a gunman from shooting up kids on the playground or the outdoor cafeteria. More guns won’t make anyone safer.
So, how should we explain this shooting and the next and the next? We can’t because there are no words to explain all of this. What we can do is listen to their fears and express our own sadness. We can tell them that there is still hope, and there are ways to fix this problem. Tell them how important voting is and why. Tell children that in the face of a scary situation they should rise up. Be a good friend. Care for their community. Do what we can to help all people in this country to live better healthier more productive lives. Tell your kids you love them. That’s really all we can say.