What Kids Do When We Fail Them

Sometimes when we don’t know what to say we say nothing at all.  So when we lost not one but 17 more precious lives to school violence I said nothing.  I know that I am in the business of helping to educate children, yet I still grapple with the question, is it really my place to say anything at all?


Do you know who isn’t hesitating to speak up?  The children.  The adults have failed them so they are taking matters into their own hands.  And they are changing our world.


Today I am grateful for the children who are standing up and letting their voices be heard.  I am grateful for the adults who are listening.  Sure, I have my own theories about why my generation grew up never really worrying about this sort of thing.  But this moment is not for my generation.  It’s for theirs.


I’ll leave you with a beautiful example of courage by a kid warrior I happen to know and love.  My brother in-law gave me permission to share his words about my nephew.  I am ridiculously proud.


My oldest son, R (13), has been interested in acting for many years. He’s appeared in various amateur school and community plays, as everything from a sarcastic magic mirror / trapped prince in a Snow White variant, to Brian Johnson (the brain) in The Breakfast Club. Yes, I’m biased — but he’s a natural, and he cares deeply about doing his very best, and about the overall success of each production.

Just putting himself in front of a live audience is brave enough, but that’s not what I’m thinking about today. You see, more than two months before Parkland, R approached us about the next community production he wanted to audition for: […]. A serious play about peer pressure, bullying, and yes — a school shooting, this *teen* production began rehearsals just a week before Parkland. R is cast as the shooter’s best friend.

My wife and I read the script; it’s raw and difficult in the ways you’d expect. We struggled to accept that our “child” — becoming a young man before our eyes — is embracing this challenging and deeply relevant role. He feels a responsibility to help our society confront these issues and make a change, and Parkland has only made the effort more real and more urgent.

Last weekend, we shared news of R’s upcoming play with my father, and he cried. Frankly, I’m crying right now. My 13-year-old son should not have to face these fears head-on and embed himself in tragedy, just to teach adults that we can and must do so much better by his generation.

On this issue or a host of others, our children shouldn’t be called upon to be this brave, and to confront us about the uncomfortable challenges we’ve been willfully ignoring for far too long. But I am unspeakably proud that R is doing exactly that, in whatever way he can.

He’s in good company.