‘Kids these days’ is a matter of perception.

Kids These DaysI took my son to the park tonight. It was dusk as we rounded the corner to the play structure. There we saw a band of 10-12 year old boys. They looked like the kind of kids most would consider rebellious and disrespectful. Their attire was suspect; all had black hoodies, baggy pants, crazy hair, a demeanor yet to be determined. Their bikes tangled in a heap next to the swings. They were standing on the swings, climbing up the slides and being wild. What I saw in them was me. When I was young. When I was given the freedom to be out with friends without supervision.

We approached the structure with caution and looked for an opening to climb up to the tier where the slide entrances were. I walked in front one of the boys standing at the monkey bars. As I passed the boy swung out, unaware that I was there. He missed me as I reached out to stop his swing. I apologized because it was I that walked out in front of him. To my surprise, he said he was to blame: “I didn’t see you and almost hit you. It’s my fault.” “No worries” told him as I moved on with my son.

I kept an eye on them as they were attempting a ‘how many college kids can fit a phone booth’ routine but with a swing. We went down the slide a couple of more times before my son spotted the empty child’s swing next to where the boys were attempting their record. On our last attempt down the slide one of the boys was blocking our path trying to go down the steps. I stepped aside to allow him through. “You can go first.” he told me. “There are a ton of ways down this thing and only one way up. I’ll go this way so you can come up.”

After our last trip down, I reluctantly agreed to push him on the swing next to the boys, as I was leery being to close to their antics. “Watch out for the little kid.” one of them said as I placed my son in the swing a mere foot from them. “Oops. Sorry.” another one said. I pushed my son as high as the swing would allow while, much to my amazement, all five boys managed to fit on the swing. One called out to a buddy that was out of ear shot to push them all.  He didn’t respond. “Hey, you guys all got a good hold?” I ask. “Yep.” So there I was, simultaneously pushing a group of pre-teens and my son. They laughed until one fell off; then they all spilled off of the swing. They thanked me, told my son they liked his hair and sped off on their bikes after discussing who’s mom was making what for dinner.

The moral? The ‘kids these days’ rhetoric is a perception of adults that forgot they were once children. This perception would have led me to believe that these boys, the ones I pushed on the swing, were troublemakers. Being wild, climbing improperly on the equipment, banding together. When I first saw them, as I said earlier, they reminded me of me. Kids having fun, acting their age without concern of their perception. Once involved in their world; they were respectful and nice to me while being mindful of my 3 year old son. But you wouldn’t have known, or guessed, that by looking at the 5 second window we all use to pre-judge.

Kids these days. We were all once kids; indulging in various stages of enjoyment. We see them in hordes in the malls, at parks, at the movies, arcades (yes, those still exists) and assume the worst. We see them embracing their freedom and living up their childhood. Like ‘kids these days’, we all hid things, did things we may regret, rebelled a little. As we age, we forget these things. We live in the adult world, where we expect everyone to be well mannered and respectful of everyone. Forgotten are the days when we ourselves were still learning and figuring out our place. Forgotten are the days when we were still learning to regulate our own emotions and impulses. Admit it, you’ve said some pretty harsh things under your breath and had some harsh thoughts. The difference? We have the ability and life experience to not act upon them. To veto the impulse before it gets executed.

People will tell you kids these days get away with much more than they did. That is simply not true. Looking back on my childhood and teen years I got away with quite a bit, as did all of my peers. No worse than today’s youth. Forgotten are the all your childhood shenanigans in favor of the times you were reprimanded. Why? Fear has a stronger tie to memory. It’s a basic built in survival trait. We avoid fear. Things that hurt. Punishment will stand out more than the time you went into the woods with your friends all day and came home just after dinner was served and your parents didn’t say anything.

If you go back far enough, every generation claims the succeeding one has issues and is out of control. Somehow, I don’t believe that is the case. The problem with ‘kids  these days’ is its perception from the previous generation. They are different than us, they are in to different hobbies than us and strive to be their unique selves in an environment that demands they be specific ways. We see a struggling child in the store and think the worst: they need punished and taught respect. We are too quick to dismiss them and resort to the common rhetoric we have all grown accustomed to: ‘kids these days’. All generations had their groups of true troublemakers. What they did not have was social media blasting the small sect of kids that do act out and are disrespectful while rallying around calls for harsher punishments; further distorting this perception. All my peers, including myself, that did questionable acts and behaved certain ways throughout childhood grew into successful adults. Not because of harsh punishment or more ‘ass whoopings’; but because they simply matured into men and women. There is nothing wrong with kids these days. Only our perception of them.

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Lamenting the Past. Embracing the Present.

I was driving down a pedestrian inhabited street, looking at all the various people as I pass them. My mind drifting to imagine their life; their current state of being. While observing all the smiling, carefree faces as they walk, jog and congregate at will I was suddenly struck with a sense of limitation. Everything now took planning and preparation. The inability to be spontaneous was subconsciously being mourned.

I lay in bed; listening to the 3-day music festival taking place just a block from my house. Its heavy bass and screaming vocals infiltrating my quiet bedroom as my family slept. I found myself envying all the people participating in its controlled chaos. A favorite past time of my wife and I: going to many concerts and festivals throughout the summer on a moment’s notice. The possibility of never experiencing the rush of singing side-by-side with powerful artists was subconsciously being mourned.

I was sitting on the couch watching recorded shows while my children took their nap. Commercials for vacation destinations were being splashed in my face during every intermission; almost to the point of taunting. Places that were once annual retreats as well as places I have yet to experience. My mind filled with possibilities of what could have been. Places that were not meant to be were subconsciously being mourned.

TheBoy and I enjoying the zoo; transfixed on something.

TheBoy and I transfixed on something while while riding the shuttle at the zoo.

It’s okay, healthy even; to be mournful of past lives now simmering in purgatory.  After all, they define who we are and how we have ended up where we are. But that’s exactly what they are: past lives. The lives I see on the streets while driving, the ones I imagine at concerts while lying in bed or those I see enjoying destinations I may never visit are no longer mine. They are no longer a priority.

I forwent those lives for my current one. A rebirth of who I am, who I choose to be.  When I come home and a little boy comes running for a hug; when I spend my evening reading books to an audience of two; when that little boy is snuggled up to me while his baby sister sleeps on my chest as we watch an evening movie.  I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I am in my place of bliss. I’m at a oneness with who I am and the path I chose. There are no regrets or grudges with the lives of my past; just peaceful content.

Losing yourself in parenthood is not a bad thing. Your children need it; they deserve it; if only for the first few years of their life until they become a little more self-sufficient. Our past lives, interests and hobbies will always be there; either waiting to be revisited or simply serving as a reminder of our journey. It’s important to not let it consume who we currently are.

I chose you.

20140824_101344-EFFECTSThere were dishes collecting in the sink. I saw them. We created them. I also saw you. A different you. A disconnected you. A you reaching out for attention. I chose you. Together we went to the zoo. I held you while you fed a giraffe. I ran next to you while you tried to race a cheetah. I flew with you while you soared next to the bald eagles. I laughed with you as we made a mountain of mulch in the play area. I discussed animals with you while we enjoyed lunch; and napped with you after our day in the sun. I chose you.

There were 3 hampers and a pile of clothes that needed folding. I saw them. We created them. I also saw you. A you vying for your mom and dad. Parents whose time is now split with a new family member. I saw you in a confused moment with an unfamiliar feeling. I chose you. Together we went to the park. I walked next to you along the creek shore, throwing small rocks into its waters. I held your hand as we crossed the chilly flowing water to the hollow tree. Through the trails we ran, laughing as I tried to catch you. I chose you.

There was a living room in disarray. I saw it. We created it. I also saw you. A you in need of assistance. An F4 tornado version of you that needed wrangling in.  A you without a compass. I chose you. I invited you on my lap to do your favorite activity: reading books. Together we read the same words as you learn how to read. I enunciated while you mimicked the sounds. Together we read 5 books; all of which you can recite by heart. I chose you.

There are things that can wait, and things that simply cannot. In the days since your sibling’s birth your behavior slightly changed. It’s a lot to process in a small amount of time for someone of your limited capabilities. You were not jealous of this new arrival, in fact quite the opposite; you embraced her. You felt you were losing your home base. Your security. I could see that. Your behavior was telling me when your words could not.  I chose connection over control. I chose love over fear. I chose you.