To be clear, this is not my attempt to re-frame the “narrative” of climate change. Neither am I going to give you a new “lens” through which to view climate change.
In the below you will not find scientific facts or debates as to whether teenagers have power. You also will not find prophecies about the future. Lastly, you will not find any black-and-white distinctions between the meanings of “hope” and “action.”
No, this is simply one man’s declaration that the parents of youth-who-skip-school-March-15th-in-order-to-attend-the-Youth-Climate-Strike-rally must join their offspring at the rallies. Parents, you must join your children. Do it. (H- is only 8, so this plan isn’t for me. But you can be sure I’d execute it flawlessly if she was going.)
It strikes me as more than likely that many parents might not know their kids’ intentions regarding such things, so your first step is to ask them if they’re going. If you are lucky enough to have a child who asks if they can go, say, “Sure.”
Next, tonight or tomorrow night, here’s what you do. You make a sign. On this sign, write, “My daughter, my son, I love you. Come home.” Of course, when it comes to rally signs, the BIGGER and BOLDER the lettering, the better. So try, “MY DAUGHTER, MY SON, I LOVE YOU. COME HOME.” Yep, that’s better.
Then, whether you drive with them, drop them off, whether you walk, bus, bike, or have separate travel arrangements entirely, take off from your job and go to the rally. Here is the map.
Here’s where it gets tricky, but I trust you’ll sense the proper course of action. Position yourself so as to be seen by as many people as possible, and root yourself there. Now hold up your sign.
Clarification: It is imperative that you do not write your child’s name on the sign. You have a small window of opportunity here. Don’t waste it. There’s a physicality to “parenting” that most of you miss. Make your son(s) or daughter(s) incline their neck to find you.
When they do find you, hug them tightly–as tight as you can.
At home, it’s time for baby steps. I do not believe in trying something new like “conversation” at this point. Instead, read to them. Pick one of your favorite books. Tell them why you like it. Then begin to read the book aloud to them. Maybe just the first chapter, maybe more. No earbuds, no phone, no tablet, no youtubers, no nothin’. Beseech them to just sit in the same room for a while and listen.
Hopefully your reading voice isn’t too out of practice and hopefully you like good books.
But, then, I know you do. Good luck.
Rounding the corner, he heard her yelling. Creating one of the most iconic images of a teacher lecturing a child imaginable, she loomed over the student one hand on her hip and the other extending her finger towards the students face. Walking closer, he finally heard what she was saying.
“What was respectful about walking into the classroom with your mom berating the teacher on speaker phone?”
Secretly wishing he could hear the rest of that conversation, he hurriedly walked to his classroom. Along the way he ran into a student.
“Didn’t class start 10 minutes ago?”
“Yeah, I tried to skip but got caught. I didn’t want to come to school today.”
“Hey Mister, did you hear what happened this weekend?”
Applying the no-news-is-good-news standard, he dreadfully replied, “Umm, nope. What?”
“One of the students was shot and killed.”
“Huh-uh, my three year-old niece is going to be so smart. She’s playing these learning video games already.”
“I don’t think video games are so great for three year old’s, even if they are supposed to be educational.”
“What?! No Mister, you’re wrong. She’s already so smart, and her one year old sister is even smarter already and she’s only one.”
Clearly an un-winnable argument, he tried to change the subject. Then it occurred to him. What these kids needed to do was unthinkable, unspeakable even.
For weeks he had struggled as he tried to pinpoint the problem that needed to be solved. Step one of problem solving required “Recognize the problem.” It wasn’t that the kids didn’t know information, it was that the kids didn’t want to know and didn’t need to know. Unfortunately for them, he also knew what he knew: Learning opens the door to life. The news from the morning reminded him this wasn’t a metaphor. This day–especially this day–he was reminded of this not only logically, but emotionally.
As if an insatiable itch, his conclusion wouldn’t allow him peace. He was a doer. But this? He could not bring himself to do it.
He wondered if anyone could understand the fear he felt. He knew his track record. Once he made up his mind he went to work. But this time, he couldn’t do it. He wouldn’t. It was too dangerous. Literally. He wished he would’ve seen it coming so he could have just avoided the whole mess. Where was his intuition this time?
These kids had one chance. If they had any hope of changing their future, they had one and only one opportunity. Someone they respected had to tell them the truth.
“Sorry kids. Your parents are epic failures. This is observable scientifically; it is measurable and quantifiable according to every scale imaginable. The only thing you can learn from them is what not to do. Your only hope is to internalize this and its unavoidable conclusion: You are on your own. The good news is that none of this was your fault. The better news is at your age you are fully equipped to take responsibility for your actions. And if you choose to believe this and act accordingly, one day you will look back on this decision as simultaneously the greatest and worst day of your life. So…what do you want to do?”
“Okay,” he sighed. “So you don’t want to do division… Let’s chat for a second,” he said to the 15 year-old high school student. “Do you plan on getting a job soon?”
“No. Why would I?” she answered withdrawing and scrunching up her face in disgust.
“Don’t you want money to buy things you want that your parents won’t buy for you?” he nearly pleaded.
“My mom buys me what I want,” she snapped.
“Okay, well what about the expensive stuff. Like when I was in high school, if I wanted a $30 or $50 video game, I had to use my own money. What about that kind of stuff?” he calmly inquired.
“Umm…my mom just bought me two pair of Jordan’s for, what was it, um, like two hundred,” she stated defiantly.
He had nothing. He had no cards up his sleeve. He had no bargaining chips. There was nothing he could say that was true. She could literally never learn division and still live out her life. She literally would be able to eat, drink and be merry without knowing how to compare fractions, without knowing how to simplify improper fractions. Still, he felt that something was terribly wrong.
Where was her drive? Where was her motivation? Where was her self-worth? Where was her desire to improve herself?
Racking his brain, he could only conclude that she had never been given those things to lose. He couldn’t remember a specific day he was given them, but he knew he had them. Maybe he was just getting old.
He was hired to teach her. The problem became clearer every day. Kids like her didn’t need teachers. They’d had skillful, motivated, capable teachers their entire lives. They needed parents.
She was almost an adult, yet if it was cold enough for mittens, she couldn’t do a 12 x 12 times table. And she didn’t care.