turn and face the strange


I promised I’d try to write about the future after dwelling in sad yesterdays for a while so here we go. Both prongs of my story emanate from seas of melancholy but, I assure you, more or less find their way home to more buoyant shores.

My oldest boy walked out of his high school today with around 650 other students in protest of and seeking recognition for young people’s fears due to gun violence. Yes I am well aware that there were most definitely multiple students who left school today because it’s leaving school and duh. The school was aware and prepared ahead. We received emails about a week ago letting us know that students would be urged to congregate in safe areas, that police presence would be on hand to keep kids safe, and that while the school does support the students’ right to protest, missing a class carries with it the penalty of an hour long detention. The principal added that part of breaking rules in order to make a statement often comes with being prepared to pay the consequences so it was considered another learning moment for these students. I thought this was all fair and really well handled. But I guess the point is, it doesn’t matter too much what I think.

March 14th, a very very short time ago, was all about my oldest boy talking in the car about it being Pi Day. All the different math activities done in school and all these random, weird facts about the number pi. Those types of conversations sort of define my son – abruptly jumping into a subject and bombarding you with deep cuts on them. When he gets into something he becomes very focused. Microscopic, even. So yes, while there may be tons of kids out there just to be out there, I know my boy brought with him his convictions today. I’ve long since tired of trying to change certain people’s minds about certain things. He has no qualms. He stands up for what he believes to be right and doesn’t care who’s listening. It is for that and many more things I am beyond proud to call him mine.

I told him to be careful this morning before school. I reminded him that what he was doing was in protest of something violent and that young people were not doing this to fight violence with violence but to show the world they could be the solution through peace. That he could be filled with passion and anger without succumbing to hate. And then I told him that I was aware I was giving him advice, not orders. That his choice to walk was his and that I was aware I had no bearing on the topic and that my generation was part of the reason why his was mad. And I told him I was proud.

For the record, I absolutely love and appreciate the stance those take who say that instead of walking out they should fight school shootings via prevention via spotting and showing kindness to those students who need it most. The usual suspects for this sort of thing. I love that idea. The thing is, I’m pretty sure my kid is already that kind of guy. Which brings me to his little brother.

My fifth grade son did not walk out of class today but if he had I would’ve had a front row view as he is in my class. For part of the day anyways. And being as how that’s true, and that we are both in the school district we’ve always been in (Woodridge, my dream job, have a post percolating for sure) it means that I have the enviable, and very difficult at times, job of teaching a ton of kids I coach, have coached, or have coached against (yet another topic I plan to explore during conferences this week). As it were, on Monday morning the boy who my family is probably closest to due to sports came in to school after having shaved his head for St. Baldricks. We have a mutual, very good friend, whose child passed away a couple years ago and this young man and that young man’s father shaved their heads together over the weekend. I knew ahead of time due to social media and the like.

My fifth grade son, the shaved kid’s friend, has what is basically what we used to call the skater’s flop haircut which I just shaved the sides and back to this past weekend. After my son heard the story he told me he wanted to shave his head too which was a shocker because his flop, now down to his chin, has become like his calling card and I know three or four other kids sporting the same do in his circle. If I’m honest it’s literally the same haircut I had for way too long. Only his floppy bangs part is bleached, offering a way more authentic So-Cal vibe than I ever put off. He came by this retro style quite accidentally. I made him get a “normal” haircut after his summer mohawk where I strip the strip of color with bleach and then dye it different colors as the summer moves on. His mom likes hair on top and I think he’s super cute with a shaved head so of course we keep hair on top. Since the top was bleached, the flop looks extra cool. And he loves his hair. Like I said, calling card. But he asked to shave it like his buddy’s after hearing about why he did it. And then this morning, after I got the news that “someone” (kid didn’t snitch) made fun of shaved head boy even after finding out why he did it, I had something of a scorched earth word with my class and, suffice it to say, the boy will not be made fun of again. But, after finding out, my beautiful son doubled down on his desire to shave his head in solidarity with his buddy. If someone is going to make fun of him, they’ll have to make fun of me too. Ummmmm, adorable!

So from the senseless murder of so many young students to childhood cancer springs sources of pride in my boys. Of belief in the future. Of hope for a tomorrow where those who stand on the right side of history are once again rewarded. Kids begin to build the world from a young age. All too often we forget that it is really their world. We just manage, way too often, to screw it up for them and make their jobs harder. Sometimes it’s a good thing they don’t care what we say, do, or think.


6 thoughts on “turn and face the strange

  1. This… “His mom likes hair on top and I think he’s super cute with a shaved head so of course we keep hair on top.” made me laugh!!! I love that C wants to shave his head. I also love that he doesn’t care what others think. That’s a tough job in 5th grade.


  2. Sounds like you have a lot to be proud of. My favorite is your line¨filled with passion and anger without succumbing to hate.¨ Both of your boys seem to have this balance going on in thier lives right now. Great read!


  3. Eddie, this Slice just makes me want to stand up and applaud both of your sons – and all the kids who let their voice be heard today.

    What I love about your writing is how you are somehow able to capture… I don’t know, like the essence of people. You did it here again with your sons.

    Bravo to them. And to you.


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