This fall, our schools have experienced a disturbing phenomena of students destroying school property, particularly bathrooms, and the blame has been laid at the feet of TikTok.
The evils of social media are a simple explanation. A good hard look at the last 18 months isn’t so easy. Our children have had their entire known world turned upside down without warning. They have been asked to endure the purgatory of the unknown for months into years and still do not know when, or if, it will end.
They have looked around for answers only to hear “I don’t know” from the same adults who are supposed to have the answers. We are supposed to know how this happened, and how to fix it and when it will end.
One day, we picked up our babies from school and they never went back to the same world. The contents of their lockers, still full on that March day, would be returned to them in clear plastic bags months later. Evidence of the life they lived before. Their childhood innocence was shattered when we yanked them away from their friends and handed them a screen meant to replace all that had been.
As our living rooms became our offices and classrooms, our children’s adolescence overlapped with our adulthood. They were witness to our work frustration, our tears, our disagreements, our helplessness. They have heard us speak disparagingly about their schools because we are so tired and so frustrated and so scared. They saw the world through adult eyes far before their time and the world they saw was terrifying.
Our children have rallied in ways we did not predict and they have risen to the occasion over and over and over. We may have reached a breaking point where the carefully crafted vessels that enable them to continue to keep going are deteriorating. It’s likely they have been slipping for some time and we simply did not notice because our own balancing act required our attention.
Our children are raging and broken. Rage is sorrow ignited by injustice. Our children are so sad and what has happened to them is unjust. Worst of all, they are watching as their childhoods are stolen by circumstance, their lives forever altered by choices that weren’t theirs.
And still, it is unacceptable to destroy school bathrooms. We cannot allow such destructive behavior without consequences. Facilities will need to be repaired. Trust will need to be earned. Responsibility must be assumed.
And - and - if we are truly ALL in this together then we, the adults, need to be in it. We need to go to the spaces where the rage comes out and sit there in the mess with our babies and admit that we too are in pain. Admit that pulling a sink from the wall and experiencing the sound of pipes breaking and water releasing and creating a visible brokenness sounds pretty fucking cathartic. We need to sit on the dirty bathroom floor and let them lean their adolescence on our adulthood and agree that sometimes everything sucks.
And when the dust settles, we can get up together from the cold middle school bathroom tile, look around, and agree to get to work putting it back together.