I have two sons who are the reason I get up every morning, and leave the house as fast as I can. To go to work, usually. They really are the best thing t’ever happen to me. And I’m hoping my wife/their mom and I are the best things to happen to them. It’s still early. A lot can happen, but we’re really involved in Parenting as a responsibility and passion, and not a hobby. They’re still little, 6 & 4, but already have big ideas about the world, friendship, the passage of time, the afterlife, and Star Wars. Life works in phases, everything that progresses works in phases, and to pretend we always have to do everything at the same pace is counter-productive to Life.
Our kids are involved in just enough to keep them, and us, nearly over-active. It’s all for the kids. I totally get that. I hear that all the time. And sometimes it’s complete bullshit.
It really dawned on me last Summer, and hit home in October, when somebody took it upon themselves to act as Authority! in a situation that needed Guidance, not a Crossing Guard, and caused bigger problems than they solved. At each of these scenes we were in “holding patterns” for “the kids” to get in line, or arranged or whatever, before starting things up. It’s always For The Kids, if it’s at a little league baseball game, or a Junior Hoops 7U Basketball Camp, or a Tiny Tae Kwon Do seminar. I GET IT. THE ROOM IS FULL OF KIDS, NOT DRUNK ADULTS. SO THIS, YES, THIS IS FOR THE KIDS. What’s the actual reason for this horse-shit, time-wasting, misguided, poorly-planned event backsliding to the slop-trough of “Reasons To Disengage From This Organization”?
In both situations the “authority” figure disallowed any progress until all the kids were paying attention and in line and smiling and holding 2 fingers over their hearts and mouthing the words to “Bringing In The Sheaves.” Pretty much. Getting 100+ kids to do any combination of that (and to be honest, 4 year-olds are 100x better behaved than 9-12 year-olds with their yelping and backslapping and gas-masking*) is like herding birds. But when I asked “Can we start with this section since they’re ready?” I was told “We have to wait so the kids near the back don’t feel left out.”
Dwell in that space for a moment. The kids in the front, ready to go. The kids in the back who are farting around, not ready to go. Kids in the front, attentiveness being tested and punished for the misbehavior in the back. But this is for the kids, again, so there is no “starting” until the kids in the back are ready. So do we reward the kids in the front for being ready to go (these are the youngest of the entire gang), or do we shame and push and loom over the kids in the back for holding everybody else up? Because the latter is what was going on.
In the moment the Keeper of the Potluck stepped away to find out who had napkins, I started handing plates to hungry parents and kids at the front of the line and said “Here ya go, enjoy!” And I have to be honest about what happened next, which I wasn’t expecting… Total normalcy. Nothing weird or sloppy or violent. No fights, line-cuts, or RNCs**. Nobody threw-up from confusion (salmonella, yes), nor blacked-out from excitement. Captain Potluck wanted to know who said they could start. I said “That was me, I figured these little kids were close to a meltdown so we got started.” Zero reply.
So when somebody says “it’s for the kids,” whatever it is, it’s often more about making themselves feel better about doing something involving kids, but not actually helping. Coaching is helping. Teaching is nurturing. Parenting is cultivating. Mentoring is empowering. Telling people to hold their horses until we get feedback on who brought Sunny D is bureaucratic bullshit and should be met with a gas masking and RNC, even if they’re just figurative.
* Gas Masking: Placing one’s hand over the mouth and nose of a bystander, friend, cousin after breaking wind into said hand moments before.
** RNC, Rear Naked Choke: A potentially deadly choke-hold placed from behind on an opponent, assclown, or suspect by wrapping the forearm around the neck, under the chin, and locking the hand into the elbow of the other arm.