The Hubby and I made a conscious decision at the beginning of this school year that it was time. We were ready for Chris, who is a Senior, to really take charge of his life, his decisions and the consequences of his choices. We felt like we’d done 98% of the teaching we were meant to do, and now it was time to stand aside and let him put the teachings, advice, morals and principles we’d given him to the test.
Disclaimer: As a Type A, control freak, perfectionist type, this was not an easy thing for me to do. I wanted to hold his hand forever and tell my little white haired baby boy it would all be okay. Then I wanted to climb into his bed and snuggle him to sleep. Which would totally creep him out.
We assured him he could do it. And we let him know we’d be right here to advise if he needed us for anything. Then we held our breath and let him go to it.
At the beginning of the school year, the principal asked Chris and three of his close friends to lead the Raider Riot. It is the student cheering section at all sporting events and it is CRAZY. Chris and Co. are in charge of maintaining enthusiasm and school spirit during games (despite losing). The leaders are extremely good at their jobs – dressing in crazy costumes, yelling their hearts out, tweeting an texting details for all games like what to wear and where to be. Chris takes the position seriously. The level at which The Riot excels is a huge matter of pride for the Senior class.
Two incidents have occurred while Chris has been a Riot leader so far this year that have tested him in big ways. We have watched as he navigated through them, making difficult but mature decisions. We have advised a little. We have mostly stood by in awe A LOT.
Early in the year a large, very expensive flag embroidered with the school name and emblem was stolen by a student from an opposing school while at an away game. Chris was responsible for the flag at the time it was taken. After looking frantically for the flag, he let athletic directors from both schools know it was missing, informed police who were at the game, and let his “inner circle” know what had happened so they could put the word out.
The unintelligent teenager who stole the flag posted a picture of it in his possession on social media. Within minutes of the tweet, Chris knew where the flag was. Despite wanting to go get the flag himself, Chris turned what evidence he had over to adults and let them handle the situation. And we breathed a sigh of relief.
Three weeks ago, his school played cross town rivals and won in a huge upset in the last seconds of the game. But it was what happened during the game that was a bigger deal to us. Two students from our school, in a show of very poor judgment, decided to bring a marijuana bong into the Raider Riot, pass it around to multiple students and smoke it during the game. One of Chris’ cohorts reported it to the principal who was in attendance at the game.
The principle pulled all four of the Riot leaders aside and confronted them about the alleged drug use. She asked them point blank, “Is this true?”. They replied that it was. She then asked them, “Will you tell me who it is?”. Stop and think about what this question means to a teenager. She was basically asking them to snitch, tell on, rat out, and give up fellow students. They knew it would not go over well with the student population. They knew they were risking social ostracism. They knew what they had to do. And they gave her the names. The students were removed by authorities immediately in accordance with the School District’s zero tolerance drug policy.
Within an hour of arriving home, Chris found that Twitter was alight with messages of hatred, anger and vitriol towards him and the other Riot leaders. Horrible things were said about my son, his friends, their religions, their character. It was bad. I have since decided that Twitter is a place where people hide behind anonymity and say the stupidest things they would never utter in real life. But I digress. Instead of engaging in the lunacy, Chris made a simple blanket statement. He told the Twitterverse (or whatever it’s called) that the Riot leaders had to make a decision that night. And they decided that marijuana smoking at football games is not who they are. It’s not who County Raiders are. It’s not how they want to be seen by other schools. To those who thought it wasn’t his business, he reminded that the Raider Riot is HIS BUSINESS. And if anyone was struggling with the decision made by the Riot Leaders, he offered that they come find him personally, listen rationally to what actually occurred and then make a decision about the situation. He told them to leave the other three Riot Leaders out of it. He would bear the responsibility for the choice.
To be clear, the Riot leaders made the RIGHT choice. And they were being persecuted for turning in students who made the choice to smoke illegal drugs at a school sponsored event where uniformed police officers and multiple school administrators were present. Um, yeah.
The frenzy died down after about a week, but multiple students we pulled into the office of the administration and warned to back off the social media bashing. A week after this happened The Hubby and I approached the principal after a volleyball game to say hello. Her words were all I needed to hear. “What a remarkable young man you son is,” she said. “We need more kids like Chris who are willing to make the hard choices when it counts the most. I am lucky to have him at my school.”
And so, the picture with this post is symbolic. The Hubby and I are actually standing next to Chris in the photo. You can see our shoulders touching his. We are here for him. But he is standing alone at the same time. He is making choices that count. And he is standing tall.
I truly couldn’t be more proud to call him my son.