Dealing With Death In High School

For the second time this school year, our high school suffered a death in the student body.  Dealing with death in high school is unfortunate, but not new.  What is different I suppose is the way generations handle the loss both in person and on social media.

During the last week of the summer a boy in 16.5’s junior class killed himself.  We live in a small school district and the kids were clearly upset.  (I tend to think some of the energy spent on grieving was reflective of others in the grade.)  Instagram accounts were full of tributes to the boy.  On the community pages on Facebook there was sometimes (in my opinion) over wrought hand wringing asking how could this happen here? How could the signs be missed?

A couple of weeks ago, as winter break was ending tragedy struck 14.5’s freshman class when a boy was rundown (accidentally) crossing a major roadway near our house.   There’s probably more to the story – but you can see the reaction of the kids in all of the grades at the high school the loss was felt.

When I took 14.5 and some of her friends to the corner 24 hours after the accident to leave flowers and remember their friend – each took out their phone and commemorated the moment on Snapchat.  Back on the community pages of Facebook was the same hand wringing asking how could this happen here?  In this case, there was also a link to an accident a couple of years ago that claimed another life.

Perhaps – one day – the intersection will be made safer.  Perhaps one day the lessons of the immediate past will be learned and used.

For now though dealing with death in high school is a generational process – and it plays out across social media.  I can think back to my high school days, I can remember four of my classmates passing during my years at Carey High School on Long Island.  One was murdered, one (maybe two) died from cancer and one was in a car accident.

Dealing with death in high school in the 80’s though was (in my opinion) a much more solemn moment – not commemorated with pictures and posts – but with shared memories and a few hugs.

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The New Independence

Raising Independent ChildrenAs the girls get older and grow into the teen years, one of the things I hope to impart upon them is a sense of independence.  When I was their age, that mean riding my bicycle delivering newspapers and generally pushing the boundaries.  While my girls push the boundaries – they seem to practice the new independence.

In a lot of ways, when I was growing up my bicycle meant freedom and independence.  My bike took me all over the neighborhood, and when I was 14 or 15 it let me get my first job delivering first the New York Daily News and then Newsday.

With my bike and a few dollars in my pocket – I had my independence.  Yes, I still lived at home.  Yes, I still counted on my mom for food.  But in a lot of ways I controlled my own destiny.

And it’s not a freedom I want to give anytime soon.  And it’s a feeling I want to instill into my kids.

But times are different.  For my girls, a bicycle does not mean the same freedom.  Last night as I was driving home after dropping off one-off a friend of 14.0 we witnessed a group of 10 or more kids cross a four lane road without even looking.  I stopped, an oncoming car had to jam on their breaks.

Yeah, there was a bit of pack mentality in action.  But also, its a different environment to be romping around in.

So today is homecoming in our district.  14.0 is off with friends (and a boy) and 12.0 is with her friends.  I know everything is going to be OK – because I know my girls know right from wrong.  But I’m not sure they will ever had that sense of independence and freedom I had at their age.  This could be the new independence – or there may still be a chapter yet to be written.

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