One of my responsibilities as a PTA president in 2001 was to write a column for the school’s monthly newsletter. When I sat to write the October 2001 column, I felt much like I feel now. I didn’t want to write about 9/11. I didn’t want to think about it, just as I don’t want to think or write about the horror of school shootings.
Something tragic and unspeakable happened in Florida on Feb. 14. To ignore it and the reactions, ramifications and reasons for it, is to deny reality. As a mom and parent coach, I see most events in terms of lessons learned as children, and what I see children learning is that their feelings matter above all else and that life owes them happiness. In truth, all of our feelings are unimportant in the shadow of facts and reason and life owes us nothing. It is we who have a debt to pay, we who are here on this earth to give far more than we receive, with kindness, charity and love.
Much of what was traditionally respected and understood fell by the wayside when, about 50 years ago, our culture adopted and championed axioms such as:
God is dead
If it feels good, do it
Let it all hang out
Sex, drugs and rock and roll
Suddenly, the only justification you needed to do anything was that it “felt good.” What did we expect would be the outcome? It’s an upside-down world when gender is fluid, parents orbit around their children, underwear becomes outerwear, violence and sex are at once trivialized while being glamorized and glorified, education is computerized, religion is ridiculed, so-called social media boosts anti-social behavior, gratification is instant, rewards are expected, consequences are inconsequential, common sense is uncommon, boys are diagnosed and medicated simply because they’re behaving like boys, and young children are saddled with a life-long autism spectrum disorder diagnosis when all they really have is a quirky personality. It’s hard to know where to begin. It’s hard to see the forest for the trees.
This is when we can learn from history. Before the mid-1960s, children’s health was stable and good. For confirmation, just ask anyone you can find who graduated high school before 1965 or so. Ask whether they remember classmates who took prescribed psychotropic drugs, had other diagnosed behavioral disorders, committed suicide, were cutters or had eating disorders. Ask whether they remember any school shootings.
The Florida high schoolers have returned to school. Life is going on. We must move on. However, we cannot move forward until there is a deeper understanding of what is happening. Nor can we move forward without vowing to be part of the solution. Some things are simply not acceptable.
One family at a time, we must return to a traditional model of raising children. We must return to places of worship, we must return to valuing humility, modesty, kindness and generosity above achievement of any kind. We must instill in our children the importance of the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments as rules for life. We must demonstrate the adherence to these rules in our own lives, so that our children learn by our examples. Teach your children the best rule for school, and use it as your standard: “Work hard, be kind.” Make your home a place where the expectations are high and consistent and discipline serves to teach your children to be respectful, responsible and resourceful. Raise your children with a balance of unconditional love, and loving unequivocal authority.
There are a few adages I believe in and turn to in regard to our purpose and direction in life. From the best philosophy book I’ve ever read, “The Tao of Pooh” by Benjamin Hoff comes my favorite: “The wise are who they are. They work with what they’ve got and they do what they can do.” Ralph Waldo Emerson penned the best definition of why we’re here that I’ve ever read: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
We must strive for deep connections with our families, our friends, our neighbors and our community. Let’s vow to do what we can do while working with what we’ve got, whether that’s instilling the values of living a righteous life at home, or taking your energy and passion for what is right and important about life into larger arenas. It all matters.
Faucett is a wife, mom, retired teacher, Certified Parent Coach, and San Diego County CASA. Send comments and questions to email@example.com.