Saturday, March 24, 2018
Leave Them Alone.
What is striking me at this moment is that it's disheartening that I've already written about this, I wrote about school shootings in 2012 when Sandy Hook happened and my heart f'ing shattered. But here we are, and it keeps happening. Being redundant makes me cranky because I do it a lot, so I am going to attempt to make the focus of this entry focused in a different direction. Let's see how that goes!
Today I went downtown with my 17 year old daughter to participate in March for our Lives. It was an uplifting, positive, and hopeful experience. We made it all the way to the steps and were feet away from the speakers, many of them students. We were close enough that I could see their notes shaking in their hands, and hear their nervousness in speaking in front of so many people. I listened as some of the crowd was rude, screaming that they couldn't hear them. The PA system left a lot to be desired, but what can you do in the moment? But we heard them. We heard the kids from my daughter's school talk about how scary it was a couple weeks ago when their school was on lockdown for almost two hours due to a rumor of a kid being on campus with a gun. I know how scary that was for me. I know how scary it was for my daughter. However, somehow hearing it from other kids struck me hard. I hate hate HATE thinking about kids being scared. It's the main thing that just puts me over the edge in almost every possible scenario. Footage from war zones, kids who have been abused or experienced other trauma, kids put into adult situations that they don't understand, so the product is just pure confusion and fear...it WRECKS ME.
I know that my colleagues understand the following perspective, but I don't know if a lot of other people do. I've been an educational psychologist for 21 years, a good fat chunk of my life. Schools are my world. When you spend enough time in a certain environment, it seeps into your blood. I've always loved school culture. The routines, the traditions, the disciplinary challenges, the assemblies, the joys, the bad band concerts, ALL of it. I feel like I've gotten to intimately know so many elements of it and the people who dwell within it. Everyone has their own perspective, the admin, custodians, teachers, librarians, office staff, it's all unique. What isn't unique is all of these people's total dedication to keeping kids safe. One issue with having empathy (which honestly I often wish I didn't have) is that it hurts. Sandy Hook killed me. I could NOT get the images out of my mind, I couldn't stop thinking about all the staff that made it, and how I know for a fact that every single person at that school wishes they'd done more. I couldn't stop thinking about the parents waiting for their baby to show up at the meeting spot, and knowing some never did. My own kids were in elementary school at the time. Now, my children are in middle and high school, and this shit keeps happening. And when it does, it spins me right the hell out. I think of it from a parent's perspective, I hated with a passion that my daughter was so scared, stuck under her desk for two hours wondering what the hell was happening and texting me. I hated trying to reassure her when I honestly wasn't sure that it was nothing. I think of it from an employee's perspective, knowing that all the teachers and staff at her high school were just as scared as the kids were, and they were thinking about their own families. And I think about it from another perspective, with the knowledge that if that ever happened at one of my schools, I might not come home. If I saw a little person in imminent danger, I don't think I could keep myself from diving in front of them. And if somehow I was able to keep myself from doing that and kids died that I could have helped, I would never forgive myself. No matter the outcome, I would never be the same.
These kids from Parkland will never be the same. Over the past few weeks I have foolishly allowed myself to see how some are treating these kids. It has honestly blown my mind how many "adults" have attacked, denigrated, and condescended to these kids. I saw one lawmaker of some sort, claiming that the incredibly brave young people on the cover of Time weren't REALLY victims of the shooting because they weren't in the same building that the shooting took place. I've seen people claim that they're actors. I personally encountered people online (big mistake) who claimed that every kid who walked out recently just did it to get out of school, that their parents are losers, that they all need to get the shit smacked out of them. This makes me CRAZY. I can't speak to the hearts of every single kid at Parkland, or the kids at CO who walked out with my daughter. What they do all have in common though, is that THEY ARE STILL KIDS. They didn't ask for any of this shit, they just wanted to slog through the hell that is high school for so many and get on with their lives. I honestly don't understand the public and their disdain for this generation. One minute they're ridiculing them for eating Tide Pods (which is indeed beyond ridiculous) and then they're telling them that they can't vote, they can't change laws, so they should shut up and stay in their place. What the hell do they want from them? Let's say, for the sake of argument, that everything that these kids are trying to do will be useless. Let's say nothing will actually change...why the hell would people still want to ridicule and fault them for TRYING??? Isn't this better than getting drunk and eating Tide Pods? Isn't it amazing that they're attempting to affect change and make things better, even if it doesn't work? Why is it that the adults in this country can't afford them a teeny sliver of grace, even if they don't agree? It is heartbreaking to me.
These kids are traumatized, and are still marching, still speaking, still standing up for what they believe in. They aren't getting ready to graduate, to go to prom, to choose a college. That's what a lot of them thought they'd be doing two months ago, but it's not how it turned out for them. Those incredible young people are in PAIN. They're having nightmares, and flashbacks, and aren't eating, sleeping, thinking. PTSD is a real thing, and all the kids in Parkland have experienced trauma in varying degrees. Seeing Emma Gonzalez speak today in Washington killed me. She is strong, amazing, brave, articulate, courageous, and incredibly intelligent. You know what else she is? She's 18, she's a KID. She lives with her parents, and probably fights with them sometimes, she's gotten into trouble, and cried about someone she's dated. She probably stressed out about her SAT's and her GPA. And now she and her classmates are in the public eye, something they didn't plan on, but something that they are going to follow through with because they believe in it.
People don't have to agree with these kids. They can disagree with every single word that comes out of their mouths, that's fine. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and perspective, and they usually have valid reasons for them. But for the love of God, LEAVE THEM ALONE. If you don't agree, don't attack them, don't send their families death threats. Let them heal. They have been through something so life-changing, most people can't even conceive of it. To me, they are heroes, trailblazers, world changers, and KIDS. The protective mama bear in me comes out every time I see an attack against one of these precious souls. Please, just leave them alone. They could be my kid, and THEY COULD BE YOURS.