Like good Austin parents, we sent our kids to an enlightened preschool. And I mean this in the best possible way. The kids called the teachers by first names, they celebrated birthday fruit instead of cupcakes, and conflicts were “discussed”
in lieu of discipline. 

On Parent’s Night they paraded us to the Peace Rock, honorably displayed on the playground. Our son’s teacher explained The Peace Rose was used for talking on the Peace Rock, as disputes arose. Students could “share” their grievances only when holding the rose. Afterwards, as we slid behind our fuel-efficient economy car, we felt smug and thrilled for our son’s future.

I arrived late for pickup the next day to screams behind the wooden gates, stenciled with mushrooms and caterpillars. I hurdled the fence, imagining a mountain lion dismembering my defenseless child.

There stood my son atop the Peace Rock beating his friend senseless with the Peace Rose. Expletives spewed, as the petals landed. I blushed, realizing the origin of his native tongue. Not to be selfish, he then “shared” the Peace Rose with his pal, who echoed the war cries of a 4-year-old exploring the freedom of the English language, while pounding my son. Then suddenly and without warning, the boys stopped. And the spitting began. 

I thought to myself, peace cannot be forced. And after what felt like an eternity as I hid behind an eco-friendly shrub, the boys grew weary. Without any nudging, they threw down the Peace Rose of their own accord. And pulverized it with their sneakers.

This past year has felt like living with an outdated instrument of peace. Let’s make 2021 better. As we move forward, let’s call the Peace Rock what it is: a place to be ourselves. Our honest, fearless, gorgeous selves.

To the Peace Rock!


Cate Berry is an Austin-based children’s book author and other of two. She also teaches writing workshops for young people at

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