When I pick up my sons from school, I often find myself overwhelmed by the swarming crowds of children pouring from the institution like locusts descending upon a field of grain. Walking along the sidewalk, I feel as if we have become engulfed in a river of adolescent fervor and I fear being swept away by the current of preteen hormone fueled mass. At that point, I grip my sons’ hands tightly for dear life, which probably makes them uncomfortable because they are at the cusp of the age when such things will begin to embarrass them, especially while surrounded by an ocean of their friends.
But this is a natural reaction to crowds for me. I avoid them whenever possible, but there’s only so much you can do when your seven and nine year olds need a ride home, so I tolerate it the best I can.
Over several years, I find that the aspect of this afterschool madness which has come to bother me the most is not the crowd itself. I am somewhat capable of staying in touch with my own childhood (maybe you’ve noticed) and can understand the excitement of being released from your day long holding cell while surrounded by a like-minded mob. What grates on me is the complete disregard of any grown-ups in the crowd.
I have watched kids shove one another with adults in the midst of the crowd. Sometimes the shoving victim runs into one of the parents, including me. Kids will spit, swear and fight all without the slightest concern that a nearby adult will grab them by the ear and shout, “Knock it off!”
Perhaps this is an indication that I am getting older. This may be a back-in-my-day moment, but I don’t think it is. More likely, I feel it is disgust at the sloppiness of the current generation’s misbehavior.
As a young boy, I took great pains to conceal my worst side from the prying eyes of authority figures. Even if I didn’t know who the hell the adult was, there was the underlying concern that the adult social network (which had nothing to do with the Facebook back then, but I believed, and still believe, involves telepathy to a certain degree) would eventually find a way to relay the information to an adult that would justly punish me. In fact, half the challenge and thrill of misbehaving was keeping any grown-up from finding out.
The brazen attitude of the kids whose actions I am subjected to witnessing around my kids’ school is then interpreted by me as a lack of respect for my position as an adult. An overheard conversation by two seventh graders the other day may have been the last straw.
The chubby one, whose eyes seemed nearly swollen shut from his dietary habits, was explaining something to the shorter one who, to his credit, seemed genuinely uncomfortable by the topic of conversation. They both spoke far too loudly about it in the presence of adults obviously waiting nearby for class to let out.
“No, they’re not the same,” said chubster as they ventured within earshot of me.
“What’s the difference?” asked the other boy.
“Doggy-style is when they’re on their knees,” he elaborated. “The wheelbarrow is when you pick up her legs.”
“Um, ok,” the other verbally fidgeted, “that’s gross.”
It took every ounce of control that I possessed to keep myself from leaping out of the car that I had peacefully been playing Words with Friends in and grabbing the two of them by their shirt collars. If I’d had a whistle, it would have been blown. Had I a red card, I would have held it aloft and ejected the both of them. At the very least, I wanted to rap their knuckles and insist that they apologize to all of adulthood (to the lovely ladies in particular) for their indiscretions.
Instead, after running through the potential legal ramifications in my head, I decided not to lay a hand on either of the offenders. It has become obvious that some parents are not teaching their kids the important lessons of adolescence. When I see them lacking, it just is not my place to try and educate them. All I can to is hope to teach my own sons better values.