Like I did with her Sister a few years before, yesterday I was able to chaperone the 5th Grade end-of-the-year field trip to a local roller rink. Now, I know on paper, especially to those who either have no children, have small children or have already lived through those years, the idea of 110 hormonally imbalanced 11 & 12 year in a black-lit room filled with disco lights and One Direction “songs” (and I use that term loosely) doesn’t really seem like a great time. Believe me there was no long debate between The Wife and I over which of us got to go. I didn’t spend weeks ahead of time polishing my skates or contemplating exactly when and how often I’d be “shooting the duck”. And, from an olfactory perspective, if you have (or have had) a 5th Grader, you know that also seems to be that “special” year where kids really come into their own in the body odor department, yet still lag way behind on the finer points of deodorant. I was looking forward to the trip, but my expectation were about as low as the roller limbo bar that they sadly don’t use anymore.
When you’re dealing with kids, if the media had their way, they’d have you convinced that they are all savages. Now, I hate throwing the blanket “the media” thing out there, but I’m trusting you realize that I’m not singling out any particular outlet or implying that they all do it. I’m just saying, we’re bombarded in the news or even entertainment with the idea that kids are becoming animals. The constant talk of bullying, violence and just general disobedience by kids today seems to be the cheap and easy shock tactic employed. They tell us that kids are disengaged and disrespectful of the world around them and the people in it. That they’ve become these screen addicted trolls that don’t know how to interact with anything that doesn’t have an avatar.
That’s not what I see… and it’s certainly not what I saw yesterday.
There were kids on that rink yesterday who were an orange spandex jumpsuit away from the Dutch speed skating team and there were kids who had clearly never been on skates before. Some could spin and fly around the hardwood with speed and grace, while others crawled along the carpeted edge at the tempo of a lazy tortoise with a limp. Some could jump, while others just fell. But, as I stood along that edge, watching these “tweens” doing everything they could to stay upright, part of me expected the other kids to laugh. To single-out those who weren’t as good. To make jokes. For the pack to ignore them and simply leave the weak behind. That’s what society wants us to believe our kids do.
I watched kid after kid skate by these struggling fawns and shout at them. Not the hateful words that so many want to believe kids are capable of, but words of encouragement and inspiration. They’d cheer them on. They’d pick them up when they fell. They’d even hold their hands and help them around, which usually ended in a whole line of kids going down like dominoes when the first one fell. And then they’d laugh. Never at the one who couldn’t keep up, but with the whole group that was sharing the experience. Are those the evil kids that they’re warning us about? Kid after kid stopping to lend a hand to a classmate. Not because they had to, but because THAT is what kids are.
And it wasn’t only on the rink. Our school is filled with kids from enough socio-economic diversity that the tick points would look like stars on a night sky. We have young parents, old parents, single parents and same-sex parents. We have kids who live in half million dollar homes and kids who live in tiny apartments or trailers. We have Doctor’s kids and kids whose folks haven’t worked in years. And we have every color in the rainbow. But, in that rink, they were all just kids. They skated together. They ate together. If one kid had money for the games, he’d share it with other kids who didn’t. I watched big groups putting all of their prize tickets together to buy one big gift to share. Not a single kid was wandering off to do his or her own thing like the loners that so many are convinced they’ve become. I saw 110 faces not only genuinely enjoying themselves, but enjoying 109 others.
If that’s what “these kids today” are all about….
If that’s “what’s wrong with these children”…
If that’s what “they’ve become”…
Well, I think we could all be a little more childlike.