To Rock It


“He said ‘you didn’t rock it.’ ”

My son looked at me, half-frustrated that I asked for the follow up, and half-gutted by the statement.  I listened, walked away, bought him a movie ticket, dropped him off, went back to work, texted a friend, picked him up, came home, put him to bed and cried.

‘You didn’t rock it.’

We live in sensitive times. We talk about pyschosocial hazards and mental health in the workplace now.  We know better, we do better, we are better.

‘You didn’t rock it.’

We are sensitive people.  We mind our words.  We pay attention.  We try to use the right pronouns.  We check our privilege.  We ‘get’ it.

We pat ourselves on the back all day long about how much attention we pay to what people are going through.  We are better than the folks who don’t accept differences, or advocate for social issues.  We are ‘good’ people.  Just look at our walls.

‘You didn’t rock it.’

Maybe he blew an audition.  Maybe he blew a test.  Maybe he didn’t show up for something he was supposed to show up for.

However, let me assure you, teacher.  He definitely rocked it.

You see, my kid has lived half of his life with a serious chronic illness.  He has suffered hundreds of painful, humiliating, depressing and uncontrolled seizures.  He has known the heartbreak of thinking he was better, and discovering that he was very much not.  He has carried the load of knowing that ALL his life, he will need to be medicated, that he can’t be the pilot he once dreamed he’d be, and that at any goddamned moment he might collapse in front of his friends and lose control of his body.

Every day, he wakes up and puts on his socks and faces all of the struggles and dramas of adolescence.  He does this as a kind, outgoing, accepting, empathetic and loving kid.  He works hard in school, laughs, plays, and is the bravest person that I know.  He does this while smiling.  I suspect that is why you don’t know that he is one of the mightiest warriors that you have ever met.

Maybe you didn’t notice.  Maybe you think he’s just like everyone else.  Maybe you see Clark Kent and not Superman.  He’d consider that a win.

But whatever you do, don’t tell him he ‘didn’t rock it.’

Because you don’t have the slightest idea what it takes for a kid like my son to be the person he is.  You don’t have a clue what his medication does to his body, the way the thick fatigue overtakes him, how his face erupts with acne, or the way he faces the serious look on his pediatric neurologists’ face when she talks about the critical importance of adolescent dosage compliance.  You don’t know the stress he was under each and every time that a doctors appointment made him late for your class.  You don’t know the effort that goes into being ‘just like everyone else.’

So tell him the areas that he can improve, tell him that you believe in him, or tell him that you know he can do better next time.

But when he stands up bravely in front of you, trying his best, being and good and fair to everyone, and somehow the dragons win that day, do not tell him that he ‘didn’t rock it.’

Because, privileged teacher, that child rocks it in ways I hope you will never have to understand.

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