Hey there, I need to tell you something.
I just yelled at your kid.
I was sitting in the lobby of my child’s Taekwondo class when your son caught my eye. I saw him and about five of his friends messing around and slapping a mannequin/dummy (like a plastic person, not a person who was just dumb) outside on the sidewalk.
Most pre-teen kids would mess with that thing.
Most adults would mess with that thing.
I just turned my attention back to my kid because after all “kids will be kids.”
But then your kid caught my eye again. Now, he and his friends had kicked the dummy to the ground and started punching and kicking it pretty good. I gave them about thirty more seconds to do this because they were really going to town on this thing (which belongs to the TKD studio).
I wasn’t sure that what I was seeing was right.
At this point their “play” got aggressive and destructive.
I got out of my seat, calmly walked over to the door, opened it and yelled just one word:
It was loud. Louder than I expected.
“I.DON’T.THINK.SO…PICK IT UP.”
The kids stopped what they were doing.
All of a sudden the toughness of lions was reduced to the meekness of kittens. The eighteen year-olds they were in their minds were once again the twelve year-olds they actually were.
They stared at me, mouths agape.
“I’m so sorry, Ma’am. I’m sorry” said one of the kids.
He was still in on the action but he knew in an instant that he was wrong. Most of us have this moral compass inside. It’s called conviction, it’s good stuff.
He went to work trying to pick up the now immovable dummy (because things get heavy all of a sudden when we get in trouble and your friends scamper like cockroaches exposed by the light).
Only one kid struggling to right the wrong.
“You are going to have to help him” I said to the remaining gaggle of drop-jawed preteens.
A couple of the boys moved a little closer but did nothing to help.
“I didn’t do anything.
I didn’t knock it over.
I’m not helping him”
yelped the ring leader of the group.
No concern for the property of others.
No concern that his “friends” were getting in trouble.
Very concerned with preservation of self.
He sold them out, then took off on his skateboard cowering on the corner about 200 meters away. He waited there for them to join him.
What a bummer.
Whenever I see a kid like this, I think how did he get there? How long has he been seeking attention from friends, teachers, parents in the form of aggression? How long has he been ignored or punished for being “bad?”
If he hadn’t take off, I would have used the opportunity to speak grace and truth:
“Look dude, I know it’s fun and that thing just begs to be punched – but it doesn’t belong to you. Have a good time, but just be respectful of property.”
He probably would have rolled his eyes and called me a name and that would be that.
But he took off and I lost my moment.
And I think how many moments have his mom and dad lost? How many times have they just let him go? When did he learn that running from problems was the answer? Isn’t that exhausting?
Kids do not want our plans or our schedules or our money or our false praise – they want us.
They want to know we see them. Even when they are being aggressive, destructive, angry.
They want to know we see them.
They need us.
They need our hearts.
There is some heavy stuff out there in this big fat world and our kids need us to help guide them through it. To not be afraid of their big emotions and their big issues (which means we need to figure out ours too).
They need us to be in the battle with them.
And we need to get in the battle.
We can do this. We must do this.
Categories: All The Rest