Pick a Side: A Parent’s Perspective of the Parkland Tragedy

“Pick a side – half of you line up behind Quinn, half behind Everett.  Let’s go.”

That’s how tee ball practice usually starts – my 5 year-olds form two lines from which they will wildly fling a baseball at each other from ten feet apart.

It’s just easier to give kids a binary decision.  I can only imagine what the drill would look like if I simply said, “Split yourselves up.”

Simplicity keeps order.

Come to think of it, that’s why, in a hurry, I’ll generally give my kids just two choices – like PB&J or ham and cheese; an apple or a banana; shorts or long pants.

From this “pick a side” mentality I’m working through the emotions I feel while watching the coverage of the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida – trying, in my head, to boil down the complex social issues these terrible tragedies illuminate.

The Parkland rampage has brought big issues to the forefront through the passionate words of people demanding change.

I hear charged words on the news and see the venom in the numerous back-and-forth spats filling my social feeds:

  • “Guns are the problem – it’s the N.R.A. and lobbyists.”
  • “We have a mental health problem in the U.S.  We need to fix it.”
  • “Kids have too much access – with the internet, social media, everything!”
  • “Our politicians aren’t doing anything for us.”
  • “The school officials didn’t act quickly enough to save those kids.” 
  • “The F.B.I. and Sheriff ignored the calls for help that could have prevented this.” 
  • “Parents are the issue – raising kids that are afraid to step up.”

I listen to all of these and my head spins even though I may agree with pieces of each.

But, I’m overwhelmed – both by the magnitude of these issues and my inability to come up with solutions to any.

I’m left feeling powerless and lost – paralyzed by the thought of the parents that will bury their sons and daughters for doing nothing more than going to class that sunny, Florida day.

But, just when my sorrow and paralysis meet, I think about my kids and the binary decisions that help me muddle through our minor, daily obstacles.

I suddenly realize that I must pick a side – I have to do something and narrowing my choices empowers me to break free of the chains of inactivity.

I’ve decided that I can’t directly impact lobbying, politics, the N.R.A., or diagnosing the appropriate behavior of law enforcement officials that have the guts to do a job that I would not.

The only choice for me is to pick the side of my family – choosing to focus on the spirit radiating from my front door to the world around us.

With all of the vigor that others might use to attack the powerful gun lobby or to raise funds to strengthen school security, I’ll try like hell to raise great kids that make great friends that spread kindness and acceptance and accountability.

That’s what I can do.

That’s the most immediate impact I can make.

That’s the side I pick.

And, maybe my side is less combative and, hell, more selfish – but I can’t ignore that before there was a gun-crazed, 19 year-old terrorizing his former high school, there was a troubled 8 year-old or a confused early teen.

And, while there will be no sympathy for a ruthless killer of innocent kids, there is also no room for shallow arguments that leave opposing sides stuck in the thick concrete that these huge issues – like gun control, mental illness and school safety – can harden.

Just like my tee ball kids, I picked a side.

Unlike them though, I’ll throw a strike.


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