My stomach hurts, my head hurts, and my heart hurts. It is difficult to find words to express what I am feeling this week, but I will try. I hope that my words encourage some of you to share your thoughts with me. Let’s have a conversation.
Last week, I was horrified by the light sentence doled out to a convicted rapist. The rape occurred at Stanford University, 10 miles from my home, and a place I drive past almost daily. My outrage at the sentence and the message that sent is palpable. But what made me the most upset was the letter written by the rapist’s father, defending his son and his son’s actions. Reading the father’s words helped me understand how this young man could grow up to be a rapist – one who thinks of no one but himself, who thinks he is better than others, who feels entitled to take whatever he wants, and who values personal power and control over anything else.
This week, I am horrified and saddened by the Orlando massacre, where 49 innocent people lost their lives in another act of terror and hate. I am always upset when the face and name of the murderer is shown on television, though I understand why that must happen. And then I listened to the words of the criminal’s father, who expressed love for his son but also hatred for people who happen to be gay. His words helped me understand how this young man grew up with hatred for a certain group of people, and who felt that his life and his beliefs are more valuable than others.
These stories help to validate what I teach parents every day: how WE act as parents, what WE say as parents, what WE role model as parents help develop our children into successful adults. I do not blame parents for the actions of their adult children. But I do believe that how we raise our children, how we treat others, how we talk about others who are “different” from us, all impact the type of person our child grows up to be.
I encourage parents to always remember the goal of parenting: to raise a successful adult. An adult who is honest, kind, thoughtful, accepting, generous, open-minded, helpful, polite – to everybody, regardless of their color, religion, nationality, or sexual orientation. And in order to raise a successful adult, we need to be successful adults, and to role model and teach those traits every day.
We need to teach our kids to speak up for themselves, and for others who might need help. We need to teach our girls to say “No” loudly and firmly when they need to. We need to teach our boys that “No” is a signal for them to stop – immediately- no matter when it is said. We need to teach our kids that sex is an act of caring, not an act of scoring and controlling. We need to teach our kids that all people are created equal, and that being kind is a virtue. We need to be good people in order to raise good people who in turn raise good people.
This has been a terrible two weeks for us. We need to hold serious conversations with our children about issues that many of us are not able to fully grasp ourselves. We need to reassure our young kids that we are strong, and that we will do everything we can to keep them safe. We need to show our kids the heroes and the positive things that happen even in a terrible situation. We need to move forward and live our lives with confidence, and free of fear. We need to hug our kids tightly and appreciate all the small beautiful moments that make up our day. And we need to open our hearts, open our minds, and be kind to each other.
Together, we will get through this.