It has been just a few weeks and the #NeverAgain movement has scholars, politicians, and everyone else in awe at what they are accomplishing. If you are not familiar with #NeverAgain, it is a movement led by high school students that emerged from the Parkland shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed and 14 others were wounded by a gunman armed with an AR-15 on February 14th, 2018.
Out of the 17 dead 14 were teenage students. Student survivors from the shooting are speaking up about their experience and on ways we can make sure this does not happen again, hence the name #NeverAgain. They have focused their efforts on gun control and on the power the NRA (National Rifle Association) exerts in policy decisions.
This is not the first time our children have been murdered in a mass shooting, but is the first time the surviving children are leading the political discourse on the gun debate. This time is different.
As a parent who is afraid the next shooting will happen at my daughter’s school, I have not just gone to my daughter’s school to learn about their active shooter drills, but also have researched the different sides of the gun debate. Now, my stance on gun violence is that there are various factors influencing this issue, such as America’s gun culture, toxic masculinity, campaign-financing, corporate greed, extreme individualism, mental health stigma, easy access to guns…I can go on.
In the issue of mass shootings specifically, guns have been the main instrument used in all of the incidents, therefore that’s where we need to start: with gun control. This is not an issue exclusive to schools either; therefore, reinforcing school safety alone won’t fix this issue. Mass shootings have taken place in schools, churches, movie theaters, concerts, malls, nightclubs, military bases, etc. This is a public safety issue, therefore we need to find a solution that keeps the public safe. The Parkland youth survivors understand that.
With that been said, this is the parenting lesson I’ve learned from this amazing group of young people:
Our children are watching and learning. Let’s make society proud of our parenting.
I learned recently that one of the leaders of #NeverAgain is the son of an advocate for children with special needs and developmental disabilities, specifically teaching law enforcement how to handle encounters with this group of youth. After learning this, it becomes easy to understand how this student is a leader in the movement. He is just exemplifying what he has seen at home and in his environment. I take my hat off to the parents and caretakers of these youth. The political socialization of our children is extremely important to shaping who will they be in the future. These students exemplify strength, leadership, and courage, and it’s absolutely empowering.
As an advocate myself, I have gotten my daughter involved in my advocacy efforts since she was very small. I had her help me put together survival kits for homeless youth when she was 3 years old while explaining to her that we were doing this for children who didn’t have a home. Going forward to a few weeks ago, a day before Valentine’s day (and the Parkland shooting), my daughter’s teacher sent a note home asking not to address valentines to specific students and just to have my child write her name in the “from” section for time-saving purposes.
Well, when we were getting the valentines ready that night, my daughter said, “Mommy, I know my friends’ names — I can fill them out.” I explained that the teacher said it was going to be tricky to hand them out by names, to which my daughter calmly replied, “I will give it to each one of them myself, I want them to feel special.” I could not discourage that behavior and proceeded to tell her I understood and that she could write their names. I was proud.
I wrote my daughter’s teacher that night, saying that my daughter was going to deliver the treats herself because she wanted to write her friends’ names on the valentines to make them feel special. The teacher told me it was okay, and that she trusted my daughter’s judgment. My daughter is 5 years old. Our kids are watching and they are learning.
This is the main parenting lesson I’ve learned so far and I am certain there will be many more for us to learn from our youth and this movement as it progresses. I will continue to implement this lesson in my advocacy efforts, as well as in my parenting.
As for the current fight for gun control, I refuse to let our children continue to die or live in fear thinking they could be next. The kind of stress and fear our children are enduring should not exist, period. The pain the parents of the victims had to endure, no one should have to experience. The Parkland shooting survivors are our children; let’s join their efforts and offer our support to this amazing group of teenagers who just want to be able to go to school free of fear, for themselves, for our children, and for our future generations.
As parents and caregivers, remember, they are watching us and they are learning. These are our future leaders.