Speak up!

My daughter emailed me the other day with news of another school shooting — this time in Ohio, only 30 miles from where she is going to school.  You can imagine how I felt, what my mind was thinking.

I quickly read the online ABC news report, and as usual, a few friends of the shooter came forward to say that they knew about the plan, but they ‘didn’t think he was serious‘.

Now I don’t know the details, but I’d like to take this incident as a general example — because “I didn’t think it was serious” is a line that is used over and over in similar situations.

To me, the ‘I didn’t think it was serious‘ excuse is another way to say, “I was afraid or didn’t know how to speak up.”

Now there are times in our lives – in everyone’s life – when we will be privy to certain information or knowledge — told to us in confidence or in passing, that forces us into a position where we must make a decision.  Yes, forces us.  How selfish of the perpetrator(s)!

For example….kids hear something that other kids didn’t; kids see other kids cheating on a test;  kids see other kids stealing; the list goes on and on.

In those situations, the perpetrator(s) is selfishly forcing us into a position where a decision has to be made.  Yes, selfishly forcing us to make a decision — either speak up or keep quiet.

So what do most kids do?

What would you do?

It’s easy to say, “I’d speak up, of course!”  But how easy is it to do?

In my earlier blog I talk about making memories with your children by being there to talk them through tough times, and by giving them your real-life examples to back it up, if necessary.

Standing up and speaking up for what you believe is right or the right thing to do is something we need to SHOW our children how to do every chance we get.   And boy, it sure isn’t easy!

This last week, I found myself in just such a situation.  I had gone to see a Little League baseball game that was supposed to be a nail-biter.  The two teams playing were from the same baseball club, and if Team A won, a championship game would need to be played, whereas if Team B won, no game was necessary, they would be declared the overall champion.  It was sure to be a well-fought battle!

Or so I thought.

At stake for Team A was one extra spot on the all-star roster, since if they lost they’d fall back into 3rd place and only be able to choose 4 boys instead of the maximum of 5 for the all-star tryouts.  For Team B, since they were stronger than Team A, even if they lost, they’d still have another chance to win it all. And if they didn’t win it all, they would drop to 2nd place and still be able to send 5 boys to tryouts.

Because these two teams were from the same club, the rumor was that they were going to fix the game so that Team A would win, thereby shutting out another team (Team C) from claiming second spot and the extra all-star tryout spot.  (The top 2 teams can send 5 boys, but the 3rd team on down sends 4 or less.)

My son used to play for this ball club and we still have many friends whose children play on the teams. I didn’t want to believe the rumor, but this was the second time people had said they were fixing games, so I wanted to go and see for myself.

As I watched, I found myself getting angrier and angrier.  How dare the parent managers and coaches in charge!  They weren’t having the kids baseball, they were wasting everyone’s time (and I waste enough of my own time already, I don’t need anyone helping me to do it!).  The careless disregard and disrespect for the game and anyone and everyone who volunteers their time and talent to providing the sport was unbelievable. Not to mention the fact that they were disrespecting their own children and teaching them a horrible lesson!

It was so upsetting, but what to do?  I looked around.  Because both teams were from the same club, I was technically the only parent there that didn’t have a son or daughter on the field. No one said a word; I believe they didn’t want to jeopardize their children’s chances to make the all-star team.

So what to do?  Rat on my son’s old club to the Little League board or just keep quiet?

For me, there is never a question:  If I see injustice, I will go to any length to fix it. The bullies had a hold on me when I was younger, but not anymore. Now I know where to go for help, who to contact, and how to make sure my voice is heard.  I speak up.

But kids….I know from personal experience how hard is it for kids to speak up!

Kids may not have or know how to obtain the support they need to do the right thing.  And we ALL need support when we’re trying to do the right thing.  One voice can start it, but it needs to be sustained through the tough times ahead — through accusations and possible ostracizing — through the long, dark days when it looks like you’ve done the wrong thing until one day enough support sees the sun shining through and help arrives and the right thing wins the day.

For me, in this latest instance, I had the support of two parents on the team who were sick of the bullying tactics of the parent managers who had orchestrated the entire ‘show’. One by one, more people came to see the truth, and the dark days and nights of insomnia and feeling sick to my stomach were finally over.  I could breathe again.

Let’s teach our kids to stand up and speak out either by our own example or the example of others (Movies are great resources — why not watch and discuss one — Scent of a Woman or School Ties or Mean Girls perhaps — with your child.  It’s also important for them to see how the ‘perpetrator’ (who may be their very close or even best friend) is being utterly selfish in putting them in that position.  They need to see that they don’t need “friends” like that, and may need extra support in finding new friends.

It’s never going to be easy; in fact, it’s one of the hardest battles there is because you’re fighting for your voice – for the right to be yourself and be heard.

But whatever the situation, no matter how dire it seems, I guarantee that if you are there to support them and teach them how to gain the support of others involved and be there for them as they need throughout the duration, they will gain so much confidence and self-respect.  It’s truly a wonderful thing to see your children grow in confidence, and watch them as they realize that they can stand up, do the right thing, and make their voice be heard.

And that will help make our world a better place.