Mistaken identity

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life32 Comments

Last Saturday Cole wanted to go for a bike ride around the lake near our house.

The route is roughly 4 miles and you should know that I've only recently decided that it's okay for my 12-year-old son to tackle it on his own. And by recently, I mean on Saturday.

Now I'm no Helicopter Mom but let's just say that yes, I do have a protective bone or two in my 46-year-old body and yes, I have been known to worry more than a well-adjusted adult might be wont to. So despite my gut level reservations, I simply responded with, "Okay buddy, be careful at the street crossings!"

It's just so different from when I grew up. When I was 12, I would hop on my bike in the morning and take off exploring through the woods by my childhood home without a care in the world. Actually that's not true. I did grow up with an irrational fear of being kidnapped but that would make sense because I grew up in the 1970s and it always seemed like some horrific story would surface often enough to keep you on your toes and remind you that being buried alive in a box wasn't completely out of the realm of possibility.

But this story isn't about me, surprisingly, it's really about a case of mistaken identity.

A little backstory: Cole was really affected by the Kony 2012 media blitz and viral campaign. Most of you have probably heard of Kony and that is an example of what savvy internet use can get you: noticed. Cole was so moved by the story of the Invisible Children and the atrocities, he wanted to participate in the Kony campaign's "Cover the Night" event on April 20, where people would go out and post flyers in every city across the globe, again with the goal of raising awareness for the Kony campaign.

But you see, Dan and I had tickets to see a show; Aidan doesn't drive yet and had plans to go to a concert; and Cole, well, he was sent over to his cousin Luke's house so he didn't really have an opportunity to get out there and support a cause he personally believes in.

And that was that.

But on Saturday morning he headed out for his ride and while he was gone, I had to drive Aidan to a rehearsal for an upcoming production of Bye Bye Birdie. As we set off down the main drag by my house, I saw Cole in the distance, heading back towards home, awkwardly biking and holding a bunch of red flyers in his hand. We passed him and waved and I noticed flyers on every street light pole that all said the same thing:


My heart swelled in my chest, full on Grinch-style, as I turned the corner to see more and more of these red flyers blanketing every street light along the road we were driving.

I got teary-eyed at the thought of my son, unbeknownst to me, heading out after the fact to put up his home-made Kony flyers to help spread the word in our little Como Park neighborhood.

I was ridiculously proud to be his Mom.


I returned home, walked into the house and just wrapped my arms around him, giving him a big hug and that's when he told me: "Oh, Mom… I wasn't putting them up… I was just putting them back on the poles, the ones that had blown off. I was just out for my ride and saw all these flyers all around the lake."

But you know what? I'm still ridiculously proud. Whether it's my kid or your kid or some kid I'll never know, the fact that they are filled with enough passion and motivation and belief to get out there and try to make a difference… well, that's the best of what this young generation—heck, any generation—can offer. The hope and belief and conviction that they can make a difference.

True, there is some controversy around the campaign and the organization and Lord knows if you Google it even a fraction, you can get eyefuls from both sides.

I'm just proud of witnessing the idea that people can make a difference—and specifically kids can make a difference—whether they're out there plastering the world with flyers for their cause, or simply re-taping them to the pole.



Cathy ZielskeMistaken identity

32 Comments on “Mistaken identity”

  1. #1

    Too right, well done Cole! I am a firm believer that if we listened to young people and their views more, we’d be a whole lot better off as a society..

  2. #3

    As a new mum to a 12 year old, I have Helicopter tendancies too – I’ve not had the first ten years of her life to get used to being a Mum in the first place, so can totally understand your worries. Cole has proved how responsible a young lad he is and you should be proud – hope this makes it into your PL this week!

  3. #4

    you truly have 2 awesome children!!! You and Dan have done a fantastic job as parents…congratulations. I know it ain’t easy.

  4. #5

    Ok… so first, I start tearing up. I feel my throat closing as I picture you and Aidan in the car, catching a glimpse of Wonder Boy in the distance fumbling with his bike and the posters, hell-bent on making his contribution to a cause that swells passion in him.

    Then, I crack up, out loud, at his response that he was “just putting them back on the poles”.

    And then, I choke up, AGAIN, at how awesome our kids can be. How they CAN change the world – one PERSON at a time. Heck, Coley changed his Mom (and thus, we multitude of blog-followers) and that wasn’t even his goal.

    Amazing kids you got, Zielske.

    Now, to try to figure out how to explain today’s tears and then ROFL noises coming from my office. Again.

  5. #6

    I know you’re trying to focus on Cole and it is heart warming to know that some some younguns care. I am often pessimistic about that. But I’d also like to say: Cathy & Dan. . .ya done good. You have two amazing, creative, well-rounded children. There aren’t enough focused, caring parents out there.

  6. #10
    Lyn Meeker

    Congrats Cole! What a responsible human being…

    Cathy… mine is now 21 and I still freak if I don’t hear from him over a space of time .. especially when my phone messages go to voice mail over a course of three days .. or my FB messages go unanswered .. when it turns out “I’ve just been really busy with homework mom!” … And Aiden I LOVE Bye Bye Birdie … have a great time with it!

  7. #11

    I hear you, Cathy. My daughter was particularly impacted by this campaign too. And yes, there is controversy. But I am so impressed with the way she and her peers have a genuine desire to make a difference in any way she can.
    Her disbelief that all us adults don’t know or care what’s really happening in the world (not just this campaign but other atrocities & inequalities) made me hang my head in shame. “Didn’t you know, Mum? Didn’t you ask? How can we help them?”
    I am so glad she is asking questions. I used to ask questions, but somewhere along the way, I forgot to keep asking. If our young people keep asking questions of our world leaders and influencers as they grow up; and then keep asking questions when they are the world leaders and influencers, there’s hope.

  8. #13

    A sweet story beautifully told.

    Did you know The Man has developed poster-proof utility poles? Fascists.

  9. #14

    What a beautiful story. I cried reading this and I’m not even his mom so I can only imagine how your heart filled with love for this amazing kid of yours. He’s gonna change the world, I just know it. XO

  10. #17

    The best thing about this story Cathy is you sharing it!! We too often notice the things our kids aren’t doing and we focus on those! I think if we all noticed the amazing, wonderful things our kids think and do, they would be doing more of them. So I’m going to go hug my kids today and find something to praise them for!! Thanks for reminding us….

  11. #18

    Tears welling up. In pride and in awe of your son. And in mine. My 12 year old son also was moved by the Kony campaign and wanted to put up posters. And we also were not able to for similar mundane reasons. Thank you for sharing the story and for the reminder that the children are our future and to let them lead the way. (Sorry couldn’t help that cornball just popped right out.)

  12. #19
    Maria @ CrazyLovelyMadhouse

    The wonderful and amazing point of your post is not lost on me, but I just wanted to comment on the fact that you mentioned you grew up with that irrational fear of being kidnapped – ME TOO!!!! I thought I was the only one!!!!!!!!!!!! So glad to hear that I wasn’t. 🙂

  13. #22
    tiffany h.

    I just have to chime in with everyone else–you & Dan have done well, your kids are amazing people and you should be so very very proud. I think you need to change the focus of your blog to how to parent amazing kids.

  14. #23

    I faithfully read your blog and this entry is so incredible. My children are grown and unfortuately I was not into scrapbooking. This is what scrapbooking is all about. It is hard to remember moments like these 30 years later. Thanks Cathy for sharing!

  15. #24

    Awesome, just awesome. Three cheers for Cole. And to you for raising him with awareness and compassion.

  16. #26
    Gypsy Chaos

    Awesome – actions, descriptive story, children.

    I was struck with awe as I realized that another person – in addition to Cole – was affected enough to post signs. Every bit of evidence that the majority of people are decent, that the news covers the rare events, not the mundane, helps bolster my belief that the world is filled with good.

  17. #30
    bisons, et que la neige est couverte d'une couche de glace, on pénètre, avec les traîneaux légers à chiens, jusqu'au milieu des troupeaux, pendant que le chasseur se tient assis ou à genoux, l'arc et les flèches à la main. H est impossible de

    bisons, et que la neige est couverte d’une couche de glace, on pénètre, avec les traîneaux légers à chiens, jusqu’au milieu des troupeaux, pendant que le chasseur se tient assis ou à genoux, l’arc et les flèches à la main. H est impossible de

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