Something happened to me at the car wash the other day as I waited for my free oil change. That something will encourage me to rethink young people and to better understand the things that they go through.
If anyone truly knows me, then they know that I just love young children and how they marvel at this huge and wondrous world around them. I often wish that I could just somehow jump into their little minds and behold the wonderment in all of the things that they see in a world that is truly new to them.
One of the saddest things about children, though, is that they eventually must turn 13 — and then it all changes.
Somehow, at about that age, instead of beholding the wonderment of the world around them, they instead get the idea that they are indeed the world. And then they seemingly wonder why all of those other things — those things that consider themselves to be older and wiser parents and adults — have not changed their behavior and don’t understand why we are not beholden to them.
You open the door for them, they don’t say thank you.
They use all kinds of inappropriate language around you, and you dare not say anything to them.
If they are walking toward you, then they expect you to move out of their way!
Now usually, if I encounter a young person that is walking on a collision course towards me, I don’t move. When I see that they have no intention of going around, they get a good piece of my elbow to help them to adjust their attitude.
I don’t move for them, or at least I didn’t. More clearly, because of something that happened to me at the car wash the other day, at least I will be more selective in accommodating 13-year-olders who are wrapped up in their seeming delusions.
At that car wash, a kid, looking to be about 13 years old, brushed against me as he walked from behind me and he didn’t bother to apologize. His grandmother paid the event no attention. Of course, this bothered me even more.
The kid walked a couple of yards past me, turned, babbled something and then walked directly toward me as if I wasn’t even there. When it was evident that he was going to walk over me, he got an elbow from me.
Because it didn’t faze him, I began to watch the teen more closely. He turned again and walked back toward what I could now best describe as his caregiver. Still somewhat distracted, she walked out of the door and the lad followed closely behind her, babbling as he exited the building.
It was then that I discovered two things: one of which was about him, and the other of which was about me.
The kid was walking on his tippy-toes and he probably was not really 13. In all likelihood, he was just a big kid — a big kid that appeared to have some developmental problem. I felt really, really bad for elbowing him.
But there was, indeed, another 13-year-old kid there at that car wash that evening, at least he acted that way, and he was getting his oil changed.
The thing that I discovered about myself, the other 13-year-old that sometimes lives inside of me, was that having had so many experiences with rude teenagers, I likely misjudged that unfortunate youngster as just being one of the many of them who thought that the whole world wrapped around themselves. I should have never judged that child as I did, especially after knowing that, overwhelmingly, most of the teens that I have met, even the 13-year-old ones, are not rude at all.
I make no excuses for deliberately rude youth, but, I am aware of how generations of parents have imparted cavalier attitudes in some, endowed others with genetic pre-partum flaws, or both. Too many of these kids come from broken homes — some are crack babies, some don’t know their fathers, sisters or brothers and in some cases, not even their mothers. Many are abused, and most of them are simply looking for that love that we all should have for them, the love that we so readily give to young children but those teens never had enough of that love and they don’t know how to properly find it.
It is the responsibility of us adults to show enough understanding and love to help these teens to marvel at the huge and wondrous world around them, so much so, that they’ll want to jump into our minds and to behold the world as we see it — and then they improve it anew.
This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the encounter between the two 13-year-old kids that I met in that car wash that night, especially in how it was no 13-year-old who drove his car away that evening, off into a new world of understanding.
Contact Ken Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org.