Neighborhood Parents

Note: I’ve been taking Master Classes during the shutdown. Currently, I’m taking one by Joyce Carol Oates and in it, she has given an assignment to write for 45-minutes without stopping. I used the program, Flow State, to keep me writing the whole time. This is the rough draft. I have not done any editing but I thought I’d see if there was any reaction. It’s about 1,600-words, a little out of my comfort zone.

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Perfect lessons travel like express trains. The problem with learning is that there are often more trains on the track than can be handled and often that leads to some sort of derailment or headon collision. Such is the life of a teenager in townhome community. As if it wasn’t already hard enough to be be a kid, nature or China or some other entity threw a novel virus into the world and locked everything down for the unforeseen future. Kids were left out at what is supposed to be the most important time of their lives, at least as far as social development is concerned.

So the kids were left to the devices, literally, phones, tablets, computer screens, and gaming consoles became their only way to communicate with friends or go to school. Luckily, the start of the lockdown came when it was still cold and rainy, but then there were a few May days where the sun invited the kids outside, the need to hang with friends was greater than social distancing, and outside beckoned to the youngsters.

Back to the community thing, the kids live in a neighborhood that is notoriously polar. There are long time families without kids, senior citizens who have mostly forgotten what it was like to have children. They walk around eyeballing every little thing in the community and reporting back to the association any and all violations of the bylaws. Mostly, they have nothing else to do and are left to making themselves feel important in their waning years.

At the other end of the neighborly spectrum are the young parents. They have kids who are just beginning to walk and talk. For these families, life during the pandemic must be a nightmare. To have screaming, attention seeking, young and impressionable minds, and their insatiable need to love and learning around all the time have got to be insufferable. These families get out and walk with their large, three-wheeled strollers talking on the their phones, chatting with a walking partner, or baby talking their babies. They don’t have a care for the community at any junction of their walk because they are free, able to walk wildly, without the worry of entertaining the little rugrat who is bound and gagged in the over priced stroller.

So, it is at these two ends of dementia, I mean life, that teenagers get squeezed. The old farts don’t want them climbing trees. The young upstart parents want to make an example of them to impress their children. All in all, both are asinine.

I grew up in an apartment complex. I was loud, played outside most of the time, and I am absolutely sure that people were not happy that we were out so much. If I could go back an apologize to the people who lived where we played football, I would, but they’ll have to be satisfied with a big point to the sky because, well, I actually don’t feel like I need to apologize for being a kid. If we had been out tearing things up, I would feel badly, but for playing, no, I’ve got nothing to apologize for. The problem is that today’s adults have become little “bitches” who think that the world is only about them. Their memories have been crushed by the politically correct, my feelings matter most, I empowered to have my right trump yours, kind of thinking.

The older sect, their empowerment comes from the belief that the fifties were the golden years of America. I don’t think they remember that the Civil Rights movement was finally gaining steam, that wars would bookend their decade, and that John Wayne and John Huston were creating some of the worst stereotypes in the name of cinema. It’s that inability to disassociate themselves from the worst of their youth when they judge the kids of today that drives me crazy. Bad stuff happened when old people were young. I bet they did some of it themselves. Today, they’d call their actions, mischief. When the describe today’s kids, they call them hoodlums.

It’s the younger ones I have trouble with. These parents who are just starting out are not too far removed from the indiscretions of their youth. Heck, the little ones in those fancy strollers might even be mistakes. For these just out of adolescence parents to be so uptight about what teenagers are doing is beyond comprehension. What happens to us when we make another? Do we lose all sense of reason? Are we so desperate for control that we lash out at others in an egotistical power play?

I don’t know, but I do get tired of hearing people bashing kids all of the time. Please, don’t get me wrong, I equally hate excusing childish behavior as, “Ah, shucks, they’re just kids,” but so much of the hate put on kids is really a distorted perception on the parts of adults with nothing better to than the be… adults.

All of the issues that people are having right now relating to people are understandable. Covid-19 and the shelter in place orders have put everyone on edge. The lack of money flowing has got to be stressing people out. Then, they have to interact with others, either on a walk, in a store, or watching kids play outside of their windows and they have no idea what it means to be a human being. It means we support each other. It means we take on challenges. It means we are not dicks to each other.

Maybe that sounds a little difficult to some, but you’ve got to get over yourselves and understand the patience goes a long way right now. The walls are closing in for everyone, but having kids outside might be the best thing for them. They need to be outside hanging with their friends. They need to be outside running around strengthening the bodies. They need to be outside getting exposed to whatever germs there are so that their immune systems will get stronger. They don’t need to be sitting around anymore. A lot of adults who are wanting kids to stay inside once thought this way. Get them off of their X-box. They should be outside like we were when we were kids. You didn’t hear about people in our generation dying from stuff. We were tough.

Ah, the good old days, when a little bit of dirt was just enough to figure out what to do, but now, these young as parents who were raised in programmed play, travel sports, and play dates don’t know what can be done with a little dirt. It can be a base, turned into a place to play with cars, gotten wet and turned into a mudpie that is good for throwing on someone. What do I know, I’m just a guy who is somewhere between old head and young parent watching two teenage kids deal with the malaize that is adults who forget what it was like to be a kid.

Maybe we should send them back to school. After all, you need a license or certificate for just about anything. One major exception is becoming a parent. Any couple smart enough to dip a wick can make a kid. Any couple smart enough to want to do should have the wisdom of the past and be able to know that sometimes kids make mistakes.

But wait, they should also have the grace to accept that adults do too. Things are not what they seem. Maybe the events of a situation didn’t happen quite the way they thought. The adults should spend a little time watching Law and Order, the witness usually mess things up with some lapse of memory. Instead of jumping to conclusion, they should remember the lessons Elmo sang about taking a breath and go back to their recliners or quality time with their dirty diaper training wheel organic Kryptonite kids and learn what is real. Kids make mistakes. If they didn’t, there would be no need for diapers.

As my time here winds down, I’d like to thank twenty-six years of working in public schools for my warped wisdom. I spend a great deal of time with kids, mostly teenagers now. I look at them knowing that they are in learning mode. They have to be taught and as hard as it is to get through to them, I’ve got to be as patient as I can be. I’m not always good at it and I’m sure it will be tough to get back in the groove one the pandemic subsides, but I can sit back and laugh at my neighbors who have no clue what it means to raise other people’s children. They don’t know the effect they are having on their kids by yelling at other kids. They don’t know how their baby talk and coddling is creating some manipulative little mofos. Maybe then, I’ve found some sort of Maslow certainty where I’m comfortable with kids. I don’t really have to worry about the neighborhood kids. One, most of them are too young to bother me. Two, their parents are always hovering over them.

That’s not good…

3 Comments

  1. I have moved around a bit so I have not taught any grandkids, but the children I taught in my first year, 1970, would have grandchildren by now.

  2. I am not an expert on writing quality or value, but i know what I enjoy reading. I can certainly go along with what you say. My final years of teaching showed up more of the babies having babies situation. Illustrated well the morning our deputy principal stepped out the staffroom door to the adventure playground to reprimand one lithe young thing – who turned out to be the 21 year old mother of one of our six year olds. Oh well !!

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