I know that speaking up is hard to do. I think it’s only in recent years when I have actually found my voice and started speaking up more–especially when anything happens around my three-year-old daughter. Take this for instant.
The other day, I took her and my stepson (13) to this cool park in the picture. We were having a pretty good time, which can sometimes be hard with a three-year-old after nap time and before dinner. Then some kids–brothers and sisters ranging in age from about 13 to 4–started throwing these little gravel rocks at each other. They were throwing the rocks in the same direction as the rocket playground, and so rocks were flying everywhere, just waiting to hit some kid in the eye. No parent stepped up to tell them to stop, and so I said, “Stop throwing rocks.” The 11-year-old girl turned to me and said, “I’m not throwing them at your kid.”
So, I should tell you I used to be a 5th grade teacher. I’m used to this kind of talking back and reasoning from this age group, but still my daughter was on this playground and having fun, and I didn’t want her to get hit with gravel. So, I said, “That doesn’t matter. You are throwing rocks where other kids are playing. You need to stop.”
She didn’t. And so I asked the little sister about 6 who they were here with and she said their dad who was on the phone in the car. After I threatened to go get him and her brother threw a rock that actually did hit Katie in the head, they stopped.
Now, hearing this story, you might think I WAS THE ONLY ADULT ON THIS PLAYGROUND. But sadly, I was not. And at one point, I even turned to a couple other parents (DADS) and said, “Doesn’t this bother anyone else?” NO one else even said anything to me or smiled at me or acted like they cared that rocks were flying all around. Some kids were LITTLE–younger than 2. I was upset.
Is speaking up hard to do? Why are we scared to speak up for what is right? To protect our children? In this case, I’m not sure, but no one else wanted to even look at me. We wound up leaving because I was just mad.
In my middle-grade novel, Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg, the main character, Anna (13 years old) has trouble speaking up through most of the book. It’s probably her biggest character flaw and the thing she has to work through to become the person she is at the end of the book. She allows the antagonist in the story to treat her and her siblings unfairly during the Siege of Vicksburg (Civil War). In the very beginning, she doesn’t tell her mom how she really feels or what she likes. I think I could write Anna so well because this is how I used to be. I don’t think I’m like this anymore and I’m glad. And I want to teach my daughter to speak up for herself too.
We don’t have to do it in an unkind way. For example, a lot of people speak up too much online and very rudely. But I think we have to stand up for what we think is right–from people being treated unfairly to protecting our kids and everything in-between.
What do you think?
Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from a Protestant pastor, Martin Niemöller, who opposed the Nazi regime:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.