I sent my 6th grade son off to school today with anxious hope and anticipation. It is, after all, the national youth walkout to demand action on gun control. It’s a day like this that tests you as a parent, especially when you’re a parent trying to raise socially aware, civically engaged children. You can talk to them about the issues you care about, organize community service projects, bring them to protests. And then you send them off and wait to see how much of what you taught them got through. Because now it’s up to them to stand firm - or step forward - on their own conviction.
My son’s no stranger to gun violence, having stayed in lock down for 3 days in our apartment in Nairobi during one of the most horrific terrorist attacks Kenya experienced. Our conversations about gun control and today’s walkout were simple, since we’ve been talking about gun violence for years. Of course, he was going to walk out.
All seemed simpler when our district coordinated a way for kids who chose to walk out to do so in a safe, planned way. As 10am rolled around, I learned that the school changed the plan. The apparent snowy conditions of the field meant the school’s authorized “walkout” would happen inside in the gym. This is not what the youth leaders in Parkland had in mind.
And so, I wait. I heard from other parents that their children walked out anyway and will likely be suspended. I never had a chance to talk to my son about what he would do if walking out meant breaking the rules and getting suspended. Does he feel strongly enough about the issue that he’s going to walk outside anyway? Does he think I’d be upset if he was suspended? Would that stop him?
It’s one of those moments every parent must face at one point or another. You send them out into the world and hope your messages got through. You hope that you’ve helped shape this little human being’s character enough to act with integrity even when it’s hard. You hope you’ve instilled values and conviction, so that when you’re not there, they're clear on what they believe and ready to stand up for it.
It’s a feeling not so different than that first day I left my baby in childcare. I could kiss his little forehead and hope he’d feel loved, even though I couldn’t be there with him. So much has happened since that “good-bye”, and I know this is just the beginning of the tests to his moral conviction. We try, despite our imperfections, to be good parents. We hope we’ve raised good people. But, at the end of the day, we must pass the torch.
Still, I have hope. My children will find their way, as most of us do. And, I see so many torches today, rising up to light the way – to support my children in the work of their generation. May it burn strong.