When an old, crusty former teacher found out I was contemplating becoming a teacher he warned, “Children are like flatulence. You can barely tolerate your own and other peoples are horrendous.”
Being young and naïve, I didn’t understand. The older I get, the more I understand his disillusionment, not so much in kids, but more with society in general.
I suppose every generation thinks future ones have it easier. I remember getting the I-lived-during-the-Great Depression lecture 101…“When I was a child we walked to school uphill in neck deep snow…”
With all the modern day conveniences what will today’s youth complain about to their children. “You have no idea how rough things were…I was 13 before the Smart Phone was invented, and I didn’t have unlimited texting until I was 14!”
As a society we aren’t doing enough to toughen up kids. Take playgrounds for instance.
Old Days: We slid off metal slides (in ridiculously short shorts) landing on broken-glass covered concrete.
Risks: Third degree burns, lacerations, and impalement.
Now: Kids slide off plastic slides onto pits of down-filled pillows.
Risks: Allergic reaction, tickling?
Playgrounds used to be the proving grounds of youth. Many a boy earned his Man Card bloodying the nose of the local bully. That just doesn’t happen today. One thing that disturbs me is the need for some to spray paint graffiti on playground equipment. Are they bored? Isn’t the thrill of yelling in a tube excitement enough?
Back in the day if a kid was stupid enough to vandalize, he could at least claim dizziness from the merry-go-round, but he could expect to be punishment from his parents. Today a busted vandal goes home to accolades for his “artistic abilities.”
Many parents are to blame for the lack of “toughening.” They are called helicopter parents because they hover around their children watching the child’s every move. I mean isn’t it a little ridiculous handing your child a ribbon just because they crossed the monkey bars (Heaven forbid we mention they fell six times in the process and mom was holding his legs up). At what point did we cross the line where kids have to get an award even if they received 99th place? Will future courtrooms offer divorcing couples participation medals?
I worry that someday it will be commonplace for parents of adults to call their daughter’s boss because she didn’t receive a commendation at the end of the work day.
Another item that perplexes me is fast food. When did many of these restaurants decide that PlayLands were needed? In my day we ate fast food for the love of cholesterol. Watching those PlayPits is like watching a remake of ‘Lord of the Flies.’ And once your child is in there, you can forget getting them out without tons of begging and pleading…by the parent.
When my boys were young enough for them, I always fantasized that they should have a large toilet-like flush handle that once pulled would instantly turn the PlayLand into a waterslide sending kids surging out the plastic slides.
The other piece of advice that old, crusty teacher gave me was that no matter how bad one thinks the kids are, “Never insult them because they are going to be the one’s taking care you when you’re in the nursing home.”
What he didn’t realize was that he’ll be okay as long as he remembers to hand them a sticker at the end of the day.
Chad Filley is a stand up comedian from East Central Minnesota. You can see a listing of his upcoming shows on his website, www.chadfilley.com.