Can it be that you are now 20, 18, 16 and 14?
Do you read the paper?? Are you catching this online? Or is this exercise something I do to feel connected with all of you, geographically scattered, but emotionally the pulsing blips on my grandma radar?
Stay with me. This is a big ask, and a big confession.
Authentic, uncomplicated love is a precious thing, and when I think of each of you, every single day, singing or sad, dancing, skiing, studying, making videos, shooting hoops, finding friends, making trouble, growing into your own skins, what I feel is that … uncomplicated love.
From time to time over the years, I’ve dedicated columns to you. The moments seemed to demand it. I imagine readers understand the impulse to put a pin in history for the next generation as we live our lives.
In 2008 I wrote a celebratory column etching in memory the election of Barack Obama. Of course, you were only 5, 3 and 1. One of you hadn’t been born yet. You had no way to know how profoundly that election changed history.
Then I wrote in 2012. I was worrying about President Obama’s re-election. He was running again Mitt Romney, but Romney was a decent man, and the stakes didn’t feel like life and death. I wrote to you about the Arab Spring and concerns about the economy, but all in all, things were OK.
In 2017, my letter to you described the shocking political tragedy of Donald Trump’s election and all the ways it threatened our freedom, our democracy and our sense of right and wrong. It turned out worse than I imagined. Trump’s ascension cleaved America in half, and we are still in bitter conflict. By then you were 14, 12, 10 and 8.
In the next election, 2024, two of you will vote.
I start with the political because the personal we share day to day, with calls and texts and intuition and telepathy. My worries aren’t so much for each of you, but for all of us, collectively.
Since that 2017 letter, you’ve survived a global pandemic that killed more than a million people in our country. One million. We closed your schools, subjected you to constant Covid tests, and canceled your sports, your proms and your college dreams. The pandemic threatened your health, confined you to your rooms and compromised your life for over two years.
We were scared, and we didn’t have any defense against a virus that could kill so many people so quickly.
I say this to acknowledge what you suffered, your disappointment and your pain in all that was lost. We can’t change the catastrophe that was Covid-19. The four of you, and millions of other kids, got through it, day after boring day, and I am in awe of your resilience and strength. How do you trust the world again? We read that anxiety and stress are epidemic among teens.
So this is your time, and your challenge.
The story of hope is written in our history. Teenagers have survived and healed and triumphed and lived brilliant lives after world wars, genocide and national disasters. Today in Ukraine, teens are fighting for their lives. Every day in our high schools, teenagers must summon courage just to attend class in a gun-crazed society.
We have let you down with our disregard for our planet. We have allowed fakery to displace truth in our communications. We have sent clowns to Congress.
For those of us who believe in a free and fair and healthy America, our backs are to the wall. Across the country, women’s rights have been upended. In Florida, which is ground zero for racism and division, a state college won’t host an art display called Embracing Our Differences because it depicts racial and gender diversity. And Pensacola Christian College canceled a performance by an a cappella group because one of the singers is gay.
This is another pandemic, of bigotry and fear.
You kids have survived a historic global catastrophe. Give it its due, get the help to get yourselves healthy again, and then do the work that will make America healthy again. We can only move forward, and many of us are here to help. As I said, it’s a big ask, but I have faith in each of you and the energy of your rising generation.
Copyright 2023 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.