I always thought that when I got older, I’d get all cranky and huffy about kids. I figured I’d become just like the Dad in “Bye, Bye, Birdie.” I’d wonder what was wrong with the next generation.
I assumed I’d think that my generation was SO much better than the little hooligans running around now.
When I started teaching, way back in the dawn of time (also known as 1981), I heard lots of middle aged people moaning and groaning about both parents and kids “these days.” You know. You’ve probably heard it, too.
Parents today let kids get away with murder! Kids today are rude, disrespectful, selfish, entitled!
It took me a long, long time to realize that the exact same comments I heard in 1965 were being repeated in 1985. And 1995. And 2005….
So I kind of ignored most of them. I slowly came to the realization that kids haven’t changed. It’s adults who change.
Of course. We go from being the little kid who wants just ONE MORE cookie to the parent who can’t understand how kids could be so hung up on sugar.
As time went on, and I raised my own kids and taught hundreds of other kids, I started to understand that no matter what anybody said, I actually prefer the company of children to that of adults.
Call me immature, and I’ll shake your hand.
I just really like kids.
And here’s how I know that I’m right about the basic goodness of children.
Last weekend I was with my almost two year old granddaughter at a local playground. Her dad was playing men’s league softball, and her Mom and baby brother were there, as was my husband. Ellie and I walked away from the game after a while and went to the big wooden playground structure.
It was huge.
It was a little daunting, even for Nonni. We saw the slides, but we didn’t know how to get to them. This was one of those play structures that’s built like a castle, with steps and tunnels and swinging platforms and little hidden corners.
I looked at Ellie. “Ellie slide down?” she asked.
“Um. I don’t know how to get there, honey,” I replied.
And before I could even blink, a sweet little voice piped up, from somewhere inside the maze of wooden pathways.
“I can help you.”
I looked up over the wooden rail to see a lanky little girl, big gray eyes framed with soft blond hair. She was gazing right at us, intrigued by the sight of a gray haired lady and a tiny toddler stumped by the maze. Beside her sat an even smaller little boy, his freckled cheeks flushed from the heat.
“Well, thanks!” I said. “Would you really help us?”
“Sure!” she called, and scampered over the benches and walls and walkways to appear right in front of us like a miracle savior.
“Hi”, I said, “Thank you! I don’t know where to go.”
For the next twenty minutes, seven year old Cassidy and her cousin Jacob guided Ellie and I through the playground, chatting the whole way. They were curious, kind, and completely open. I learned that she was heading into third grade and he into first. I heard that they had a cousin going into second grade that year. They asked all about us.
“What’s her name? How old is she? Are you her grandma? How old are you? Where do you live?”
At one point, little Jacob called out to us, “Hey, Grandma! Come this way cuz its easier!” I heard Cassidy, more polite at her advanced age, hiss at him, “Oh, my GOD! Did you just call her Grandma??”
He wasn’t bothered in the least.
“Yep” he said. “She told us she’s the Grandma.”
It was fabulous. We followed them all around the big structure, eventually ending at the slide. Ellie slid down, and my only choice was to follow her. I felt ridiculous, stuffing myself into the narrow tube that lead to the slide and zooming down into the dust at the bottom.
The best part? Those kids were completely unimpressed by my feat of Nonni athleticism. They had looked me over, judged me to be OK, and accepted me into the pack. That meant I’d slide. And I did.
I love kids.
I love their honesty. I love their ability to accept the unusual and the odd. I love their lack of judgement and their ability to offer their best selves without a thought.
Kids. What’s the matter with kids today?
Nothing. Not one single thing.