The other day, Jenny and I were talking about some kids at school. An 8th-grade girl's name came up and Jenny closed her eyes and shook her head. "I do not like that girl."
The scene went like this...a few years ago Jenny volunteered to be a parent chaperone at a ski and skate friday at the elementary/middle school.
As her child skied down the hill, Jenny followed. But she lost control and fell, sliding down hard on her back and landing at the feet of a group of 8th grade girls.
Oh moment of horrors.
The 8th grade girl looked down at Jenny, snorted with derision, turned around and giggled uncontrollably with her friends. Every once in awhile she looked back over at Jenny and giggled again.
The scene played in my head: There is a mom on the ground, possibly hurt, definitely wounded. There is a teenager who sees her fall, but refuses to help. Instead, she turns away and laughs.
This girl set the tone for the rest of her friends, too. Too embarrassed or self-conscious or unaware, they too, did nothing. They kept their backs turned. And laughed at a mother laying in the snow.
Jenny crawled off with all the dignity she could muster.
"My feelings were so hurt," Jenny said. "I was mortified." I could tell, by the look on her face and her red cheeks that it was still a humiliating and terribly low moment.
Can you just feel her pain? It's like being in eighth grade all over again with girls talking about you in the locker room.
I suggested that perhaps she could have thrown a snowball at the back of her head. Nooooo.....
A somewhat similar situation happened to me a few weeks ago. At church (of all places) we brought in different colored shoes to represent different values we are trying to emulate.
I brought my favorite green shoes. They're cool.
Actually, you can hate them. I still love them.
As I put my shoes out to display, we asked a girl if she would wear them or stand by them and represent that value. She looked at my green shoes and made a face. Then said, "No. Those are so ugly."
And all the girls, aged 12-13 burst out laughing. And honestly, the way the girl said it, it was kind of funny.
I even laughed a little at the way she just blurted it out.
It didn't change my opinion of my green shoes, but I was rather shocked that a 15-year-old girl could be either so tactless or so insensitive.
And hello, didn't she know my green shoes were killer?
But I also have to admit, a teeny part of my feelings were tinged with hurt. It was as if she said, You are so ugly.
And perhaps the worst part was that all the other girls laughed. And it felt like they were laughing at me.
I was amazed at how my feelings could be hurt by a comment flung out by a 15-year-old girl. A comment that I neither agreed with or cared much about.
Do you remember when you were 5? Do you remember what it felt like to be 10? 15? 18? 26? We have changed so much and yet we still feel things the exact same way we've always felt like.
I imagine that even when I'm 75, I will still be able to have my feelings hurt by a 15-year-old girl. I bet even a 5-year-old could hurt my feelings when I'm that old.
The other leader in the classroom apologized to me afterwards and we talked about what our response should have been rather than open-mouthed shock. That kind of thing usually doesn't happen at church. Usually we're better behaved than in real life.
I couldn't help thinking that there used to be a time where adults were respected and more revered, at least publicly. And even if you had contempt for an "elder" you held your tongue and showed respect.
Wasn't there such a time?
Remember that Anne of Green Gables scene, when Marilla scolds Anne: "She is MY guest and YOUR elder. What you should have done was hold your tongue!" Oh, we love Anne's spunk, but imagine what a hellion she'd be without Marilla. Imagine the person she would not have become.
The Chinese take care of their parents, they revere them and have strict obedience. Perhaps that culture is changing too, but books like THE GOOD EARTH and authors like Amy Tan show a completely different way of treating their elders simply because they are older and they've earned respect.
I realize that kids probably do not read this blog.
Maybe they don't know that we have feelings.
And, kids learn and emulate the behavior of their parents and their elders. And there's the paradox. WE have not taught our children to be respectful, because WE either we are not respectful or don't expect it from our wee ones. They do not revere or respect adults because our culture teaches kids to be rude, opinionated and self-centered.
Of course, not all children are rude and insensitive. But in my experience, polite children are an anomaly. When I come across a polite child I'm rather amazed and give kudos to the parent. Because manners are no accident. And if a teenager asks me how I'm doing? I might just fall off my seat.
There are a slew of articles on the subject. NBC news wrote about "Today's Tykes: Secure Kids or Rudest in History?"
The New York Times wrote about children roller skating around restaurants, disrupting patrons while their "helpless" parents looked on.
Parents.com also wrote about the terrible rudeness in public.
Interesting don't you think, that our kids have more than any other kids in the world? Interesting that they are the least sensitive to others? I would also venture to say that we just might have the most unhappy children of any generation.
And if kids are that rude in public, can you even imagine what it's like at home. It sounds like my kind of hell. I'm not kidding.
Isn't it just about the golden rule?
Do unto others as you would have others do to you.
Do you want children roller skating around your table while you're trying to have a romantic meal with your mate?
Isn't it more simple than we make it? We respect others. We don't tolerate the disrespect of other adults in the presence of children (even if they're idiots :) We say please and we say thank you. We don't yell out the car window when someone cuts us off in traffic.
Sometimes I think that adults forget that adults have feelings.
My mother used to tell me a story about the man who hit the dog, then the dog bit the boy, then the boy chased the cat...I can't remember the exact story, but the point was: Our actions create a domino effect to everyone else around us. For good or ill.
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do." -Gandhi
Or, as this quote has slowly evolved into: Be the change you wish to see in the world.
What kind of world do we want to live in?
I guess I want to say that even though I'm an adult, I'm also a person.
I have feelings. Or as we stay in this house, "You hurt my feelers."
We should teach our children that basic fact. Adults are people. They have feelings. Often, tender feelers.
Maybe then our kids would be more apt to reach down and offer a hand to the mother on the ground. Or sit quietly instead of hurting the feelings of my dear and adorable green shoes.
Love and kisses.