When Will We Finally Retire the Most Meaningless of All Two-Word Phrases?
By Allan Shedlin
Grampsy and Founder, DADvocacy Consulting Group
No matter what language we speak, the most meaningless two-word combination in our international lexicon is “never again.” We hear those words after every historic, manmade epic tragedy. They have absolutely no meaning…and, clearly, they never have.
There are many other words that no longer are relevant nor accurately describe the horrific recent catastrophes like Uvalde, Buffalo, and the ongoing, illegal, and devastating Russian invasion of Ukraine. We’ve been there and done that. Because the opposite is all too true now to describe the kinds of world-shattering horrors we experience over and over again, the “un” needs to be removed from words like:
During my long career working with children, parents, and educators; dads, moms, grandparents, parent figures, and teachers all have told me that it is harder and harder to do what they do. Each generation seems to feel that way. And I do believe each generation has been correct. It seems as if the ante (anti?) continues to be raised on growing up as if the world is spinning faster and less steadily on its axis.
The collateral damage to our global psyche seems to increase exponentially after each tragedy, amplified as they are by the ubiquity of social media and our "go away-closer" ambivalence about bearing witness versus silencing the news sources that report these gruesome, fathomable, and precedented events.
Will “enough” ever really be enough?
This is what I wonder every time I hear the wails of a grieving relative or witness the exodus of desperate and innocent refugees fleeing the life-threatening circumstances of their lives.
What will it take for us to turn our collective grief and trauma into meaningful action? What will it take to connect the dots between the proliferation of guns and the fact that guns are the leading cause of death for American children and that there is more than one mass shooting every day here in the U.S.? When will one faction of our state and federal government get out of the way so that those actually willing to serve and protect may reverse this deadly trend? Do we really need to have more guns than people in our country?
When will we tire of hearing the phrase, “The worst school shooting since…”? Will it be when newscasters drop the word “may” from their weekly warnings that “The following images may be disturbing to viewers”? When we no longer explain away or look away from the carnage our elected officials' inaction has wrought.
No matter which hat I may wear – former teacher and principal, or current parent, grandparent, and parenting coach/consultant – it doesn’t rest comfortably on my head. In each of those roles, perhaps our primary responsibility is keeping our children safe. That is too often not any more possible than helping kids “make sense of it.” It makes no sense for us to live in a world in which our nightmares invade while we’re awake and not take the kinds of meaningful actions necessary to truly mean “enough is enough,” to create the kind of world in which we realize that we’re all in it together.
It’s time to stop allowing ourselves to be defined by the challenges we face but rather be defined by the way we face our challenges.
If you want to do something to support safer schools and public places for our children and families, please consider donating to one or more of the following organizations that have been fighting our country's unique gun addiction and gun-violence epidemic for decades:
And here are some resources for talking with your children about gun violence in schools and the news coverage they're likely to encounter. The following resources were compiled by one member of our KIDS FIRST! Daddying Film Festival Circle of Friends, Inspired Teaching:
Table Talk: Talking with Children about Gun Violence (Anti-Defamation League)
Empowering Young People in the Aftermath of Hate (In English and en Español) (Anti-Defamation League)
Helping Students Make Sense of News Stories About Bias and Injustice (Anti-Defamation League)
Children's Responses to Trauma (Everytown for Gun Safety)
Please share this post with other parents, if you feel compelled. Don't forget to hug your kids and Daddy on.
Allan Shedlin has devoted his life’s work to improving the odds for children and families. He has three daughters, and five grandchildren, as well as numerous "bonus" sons/daughters and grandchildren. Trained as an educator, Allan has alternated between classroom service, school leadership, parenting coaching, policy development, and advising at the local, state, and national levels. After eight years as an elementary school principal, Allan founded and headed the National Elementary School Center for 10 years. In the 1980s, he began writing about education and parenting for major news outlets and education trade publications, as well as appearing on radio and TV. In 2008, he was honored as a "Living Treasure" by Mothering Magazine and founded REEL Fathers in Santa Fe, NM, where he now serves as president emeritus. In 2017, he founded the DADvocacy Consulting Group. In 2018, he launched the DADDY Wishes Fund and Daddy Appleseed Fund. In 2019 he co-created and began co-facilitating the Armor Down/Daddy Up! and Mommy Up! programs. He earned his elementary and high school diplomas from NYC’s Ethical Culture Schools, BA at Colgate University, MA at Columbia University’s Teachers College, and an ABD at Fordham University. But he considers his D-A-D the most important “degree” of all.