As I write this post I’m listening to the kids from Stoneman Douglas High School speaking to massive crowds in Washington DC.
David Hogg called for every kid in the United States to REV up. Register – Educate – Vote! Sam Fuentes, the next speaker, asked the crowd to sing Happy Birthday to her friend, Nicholas Dworet. That was just after she made her final request to the adults in the crowd – and in Congress: “LISTEN!!!”
When I heard that passionate request, I flashed back to 1989 when I heard another, even younger, kid make pretty much the same demand. I was teaching 8th grade and we were reading Scott Peck’s wonderful coming-of-age novel, The Day No Pigs Would Die. That day my kids taught me one of the most important things I’ve ever learned:
What is the ONE most important thing a parent can do for a child?
So now, 40 years later, those kids are in their 50’s and their kids – and probably even their grand kids – are demanding that the rest of us listen to them and LET THEM KEEP THEIR DREAMS.
Emma Gonzalez is speaking…I have to stop and listen.
(correction) Emma actually held 6 minutes of of “precious” airtime hostage – the same amount of time it took for a gunman to kill 17 kids.
What is the ONE most important thing a parent can do for a child?
I remember the day I first asked that question. It was in 1989 and I was teaching an 8th grade English class. We were reading Robert Newton Peck’s autobiographical, coming-of-age novel A Day No Pigs Would Die. The topic for discussion was the character of Haven Peck, 13-year-old Robert’s father in the story. My students were unusually animated and they all seemed to have something to say. (I did not realize what experts on parenting they were!) They had no trouble pointing out Haven’s strengths and weaknesses as a parent, and they were all anxious to share their insights on how parents should behave. It was just about the most interesting discussion I had ever had with a class.
At one point I asked what I thought was a pretty profound question – one that would give them cause to stop and think before clamoring to answer. I asked: “What is the ONE most important thing a parent should do for a child?”
Surprisingly, one hand shot up immediately. Scott was a somewhat morose kid who always sat in the corner farthest from me and as close to the back of the room as he could. He seldom participated and I’m sure sat there because the seat was closest to the door. I was so surprised to see his hand go up so quickly that I totally forgot to use the “wait time” strategy I had been taught in so many teacher training workshops.
There was fire in his eyes when I pointed to him indicating he could talk. He looked directly at me and his words were full of venom:
“I’d let them keep their dreams!!!”
Each word was pronounced clearly and separately, almost in a cadence. “I’d Let / Them Keep / Their Dreams.” Perfect iambac trimeter. Emily Dickinson would be proud. And I can still hear his words.
Scott is now grown and may have children of his own. The pain I feel comes from the fact that I don’t remember anything about him except for this one incident. In fact, I don’t even remember his real name. He just seems like a “Scott” in my memory. But his face and his words are clear: “I’d Let Them Keep Their Dreams.”
(Excerpt from Dreamkeepers – 1999 Bette Moore)
5 Responses to Are You Listening? Comments (RSS)
I had trouble tearing myself away from the news this morning. When I turned it on and heard the “breaking news” headlines, I knew that I would have heard nothing more than commentators on the three major cable news channels pointing out absurdity after absurdity. (Including Donald Trump announcing his disappointment in “MY Department of Justice”! (google it 😉 )
Instead, the focus for the past three hours has been on Bill Cosby.
I called this blog post “Are You Listening” when I was inspired to post it on the day I heard the Parkview kids take leadership in the movement to strengthen gun control in the country. I was excited because I realized that I might not have fully understood my “personal epiphany” in August 1998 when I heard (a voice?) say “Leadership 2020: Educating Leaders for America’s Future.” I’ve written that story elsewhere – but it happened when I was driving south on Interstate 5 after listening to two audiobooks: “Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership” by Joseph Jawarski – and “Emotional Intelligence” by …. Goleman. At that time, since I was teaching 5th grade, I thought that it was a calling to change the way we work with children to prepare them for leadership roles WHEN THEY TURN 30 – the age (I thought) that they would be moving into leadership roles … in families, communities, business, and public offices. When I was listening to Emma Gonzales, ….. , and the others, I realized that it was the PARENTS and TEACHERS of those kids who were in elementary school in1998 – and somehow prepared this new generation of leaders to step up long before they are recognized by our culture as “adults.”
So … that’s why I thought about my experience with the 8th graders who wanted me to know the ONE thing they wanted most from their parents was to be LISTENED TO.
Which brings me back to Bill Cosby ….
(I’m going to post this now even though I haven’t finished …. It’s a comment on a post and I doubt that anyone will read it so I can think of it as a draft. The only other comments were Nancy and Berma … 😉 … and it’s possible that they will be notified …. which is fine since they will understand what I mean when I say this is a SFD!!! (more later …. ???)
Before wrote story in ??? …. wrote about another experience …. years later with 5th graders. That time I was talking about an assignment that I had given that involved them interviewing their parents. ADULTS NEVER LISTEN TO KIDS…
That’s when I wrote “Are You Listening” …. that started with Art Linkletter and Bill Cosby ….
I went back and removed Bill Cosby’s name …. and have realized since then that no one remembers Art Linkletter …
It can take time to see our vision as the future unfolds All your writing is coming together.
My friend Wendy who is a talent manager is very savy about self publishing and marketing her writing. She would be willing to share her knowledge. Do give her a call. It will be worth your time. Her cell is 818-203-6080.
Thank you, Linda!
Thanks Bette! This is just the inspirational storyI needed after this stormy Saturday when I have been running around my house like crazy organizing papers and cleaning! And, HURRAY! I think I finally have this set of papers done…so I can use the table for Easter! 🙂 Also I have just finished signing up for Medicare and that took A LOT of work and research!
I also haven’t been able to keep up with the news so it was great to hear what those kids were saying…so here’s to LISTENING and LETTING EVERYONE KEEP THEIR DREAMS! HAPPY PALM SUNDAY AND EASTER!
Hi Nancy … I really appreciated that you took the time to give me this feedback. I felt so many emotions when I wrote this, especially when I realized it’s exactly what I wrote in Dreamkeepers almost 20 years ago! I was hoping that it would mean something to others.
When I think back to the summer before I retired and moved to Brookings, I have to laugh at myself a bit. At that time I thought that my 5th graders had to become “adults” before they would be able to lead. Not only did our generation teach the KIDS that are taking over the lead… we also taught their PARENTS! At times I have felt like my vision for “Leadership 2020” had been a failure. That’s because it was so wrapped up in Heartlight and Upper Chetco. Now I see that “my” vision was much too small 🙂