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It’s Time to Rewrite the Script on Teenagers

Thursday afternoon, February 15, I watched my wife and my two young kids disappear beyond the security checkpoint at the Ontario International Airport east of Los Angeles. They were going to visit my wife’s family in Washington for five days. I had tears in my eyes as I left the terminal and walked back to my car.

It was my first time being away from my family since the birth of my daughter a few months ago. On top of that, the day before, February 14, was the date of the first mass shooting to make national headlines since my daughter’s birth. Former student Nikolas Cruz walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and shot seventeen people dead, wounding fourteen more.

A combination of saying goodbye to my family for several days and the raw emotions stemming from another deadly school shooting (my oldest is in his second year of preschool and suddenly I didn’t want to drop him off at school anymore) left me feeling a sense of hopelessness that I hadn’t felt before with other shooting events.

But as stories continued to pour out of South Florida onto the national media landscape, something gave me a more hopeful feeling than I’d ever had following a mass shooting. The students were speaking up! Every day now since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, students from that school and others across the United States have been speaking out with poise and dignity and power about what they want to see changed. They’re walking the halls of Congress, they’ve spoken with the President, and they’re on every news channel in America. They’ve started the #NeverAgain movement to stop gun violence.

It’s incredible to see!

When, as a parent, I talk about some of the harder parts of raising kids, I often hear “Just wait ‘til they become teenagers!” The expectation is that they'll be out of control, rebellious, emotional messes. “You think parenting is difficult now? Wait until you have teens in the house!”

What I haven’t heard from people is a message about what I’ve been seeing the last several days. Nobody talks about teens who take control of one of the most contentious issues in America. Nobody has told me, "Just wait until your kids become teenagers. They may become leaders of a national movement. They may show the grown-ups what courage and political will can look like."

I guess it should not come as a surprise though. Civil Rights leader, Representative John Lewis was 17 years old when he was first arrested for protesting racial injustice. Seventh-day Adventists will recall that at the time she helped start the movement that became the Adventist Church, Ellen White was in her teens.

It's time to rewrite the script for teenagers. Sure, they have disagreements with adults in their lives. That's normal. That's part of the differentiation that comes with growing up and becoming their own people apart from their families and teachers.

But as the students from Stoneman Douglas High School who are leading the nation right now on the issue of gun violence have demonstrated, teenagers have an almost limitless capacity to make change and to do good in a world that tells them to sit down and be humble.

So if you talk to me about when my kids become teenagers some day, make sure to mention the fact that they could become the rebellious, angsty, awkward kids who accomplish the things that we, their parents, never dreamed or dared to do.

 

Jared Wright is a News Correspondent for SpectrumMagazine.org.

Image Credit: Flickr.com / Lorie Shaull

 

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