I don’t know what else to do.
As a mom who wants stricter gun laws, what action steps am I missing? I’ve written about gun violence, voted, called my representatives, donated to gun control candidates and “Everytown for Gun Safety.” I’ve joined Moms Demand Action. I’ve prayed for all of our students, administrators and teachers. I’ve marched. And mass shootings are only increasing.
Right after the shooting at a school in Nashville, an account I follow on Instagram, “Black Coffee with White Friends”, posted: “Talking and posting and lamenting and calling and writing letters serves a purpose. But you have to get skin in the game if anything is going to change. Otherwise, we’ll be posting the same things and lamenting and calling the same damn senators for the rest of forever.”
She suggested that more women run for office; that we won’t see real change until women have more power.
But I do have skin in the game. I have precious children out there in the world. I have four kids who sit in classrooms, who are very aware of the possibility of a school shooting.
School is very different for my kids. They have been practicing active shooter drills since they started public school kindergarten. I used to cry when they told me about practicing hiding under a table with their pregnant teacher or when they shared with me what they should do if a gunman comes into the school while they are in the bathroom. With huge eyes, they would tell me that teachers can’t always let kids back into the classroom, in case it’s a trick. These were six year olds relaying this information to me.
We are raising a whole generation of kids who have been traumatized in ways that we can’t even begin to understand. What we have unintentionally taught them is that teachers and their students are on their own in the school building if something goes wrong. We haven’t kept them safe and we haven’t given them reason to believe that we have their backs.
And many of these kids, tired of nothing changing, have decided to lead. As I watched the students protest at the Tennessee State Capitol, I was so proud of them, but also afraid for them. When I saw the State Representatives, nicknamed “the Justins,” join the protest and then get expelled for doing so, I was, once again, both proud and afraid.
I’m tired of feeling so mousy and scared. Clearly, what all the middle-aged white ladies like me have been doing to stop gun violence hasn’t been enough. We need a new plan and it looks like the kids are going to lead the charge.
I know this is obvious, but I was reminded recently that “leading is hard.” I went on a horseback-trail ride with some friends. Since I was the least experienced rider by several decades, I was given the sturdiest, least spookable horse in the state. My friends were both training more excitable horses, who would sometimes balk if there was mud. Horses are never predators, they are always prey—and their personalities reflect that. Part of training horses is making them go first.
Everything about the horses who moved to the front would change. They carried themselves differently and were so jumpy, but then they each got better the longer they were in front. My friend said, “We have to make them practice; leading is hard.”
I thought about how easy it is to judge leaders when you are sitting in the middle, on a sturdy horse. It’s easy to forget how much energy it takes to be in front; how scary it is; how tiring.
If we aren’t willing to move to the front, we need to at least be supportive and helpful to the ones leading. It’s the least we can do for our kids.