An Open Letter to My Teenage Sons
I have high expectations of you. I have no doubt that you will live up to them all, but in the wake of recent news events I feel like I have to verbalize them.
This past week we have become aware of two crimes, one that is playing out to a horrified nation about Penn State and a man who used his position and power to abuse young boys, while other people stood by and did nothing.
The other playing out for us on a more personal level, someone who coached the youngest among you boys and was looked up to and respected; he was arrested for statutory rape. He also abused the power and authority of his job to commit the crime.
We have had long talks about both of these things. The former made you angry and was not something you were able to wrap your head around. For that I am glad, that you haven’t been jaded by the evil in the world, because when I read about crimes, I am so saddened by human beings in general.
The latter, however, confused you. At seventeen and almost sixteen you feel as though you are mature enough to make decisions on your own, to decide the course of your life. And to that I say, yes, you do. Sometimes. It is difficult to have you fully understand that while you might feel as though you are thinking the same way as an adult, you are not an adult. Not yet anyway. And one of the things you can’t decide is to have sex with a 30 year old. It is the responsibility of the adult in the situation to make sure that it doesn’t happen.
Remember that please. Your actions have consequences, sometimes those consequences are far reaching and affect more than just you, it ripples out to the families, the friends, the community– tainting everyone.
And in this case we can at once abhor what he did and feel compassion for his family left behind in the wake of his arrest.
The unspoken burden of having children is that you always put yourself into another mother’s shoes. Every hurt or neglected child in the world suddenly has a face, your child’s face. It is particularly difficult when something happens in the news to children that are the same ages as your own. The pain you feel for the other mothers is tangible and raw.
I have also thought of Mike McQueardy’s mother and wonder how great her disappointment is in the son she raised.
My sons, do not be like Mike.
I hope you are kind to people just because you can be. I hope you chose compassion over anger when it comes to the small things in life, and that you save that anger for the things that really matter.
I hope more than anything that I have raised you to be the kind of men who will protect those more vulnerable than yourself. Women, children, the elderly, and at times even other men are your responsibility. Rather than weigh you down and burden you, I hope that this knowledge and awareness makes you realize how lucky you are to be in such a position.
I hope you are the kind of men who will intervene when you see someone being hurt. I hope that you will speak your mind even if it seems that everyone else around you isn’t willing to. I haven’t raised you to go along silently with the crowd.
There may be times in your life when you take a stand for what is right and look around to see that you are alone. Do not second guess yourself. Someone has to have the courage to be first.
I expect that if you ever come across someone raping a child that you do whatever it takes to stop it. Anything less just wouldn’t be acceptable.
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