I’m irritated. I’m sad and frustrated and scared. Bullying, school shootings, suicides, testing, social media, sexual assault…pressure, pressure, pressure. It presses on our kids from every direction. Kids – they’re kids. They’re still learning and growing and we’re supposed to be helping them, guiding them. Yet, we’re failing them.
Maybe not you personally. Maybe you’re better than the rest of us or so removed that you don’t need to conversate about what’s not being done, being done wrong, or how we can improve. Maybe it’s easier to blame the next generation for everything. But, most of us can probably (hopefully) at least admit that our children don’t have it easy and we, as the adults around them, aren’t always making it easier.
I was telling you the other day how the soccer team I’m coaching tires me and some nights I just show up for practice, barely caring at all. Well, tonight I was ready for them. One kid even said, “This is actually fun.” I’m calling that high praise and a win! For the last half of practice we scrimmaged with a whole slew of kids that were milling about. Several of them were high schoolers. Those kids split themselves up and passed to and with my ten-year-old team. They sometimes dribbled right over them and other times let them get the ball. It was fantastic. Perhaps how it should be in life. Today’s kids growing up at the feet of other not-quite-adults, laughing and shouting, “Aw, c’mon!” along the way.
For just a moment, I felt great contentment.
Then I came home and read about how colleges aren’t doing enough for sexual assault survivors. I heard how a teacher asked the victim of bullying what she was going to do to not be a victim again. I saw a post about a student who committed suicide.
I’m holding on to that feeling of seeing those kids run up and down that field tonight and revisiting it often, because there are so many others who fall through the cracks, unless we catch them!
I could have been one of those kids and sometimes it hits me hard. I told the counselors what they wanted to hear so they’d stop asking how I was doing. I smiled when I needed to and was always a good girl. But if it weren’t for that one coach who made me focus on the sport instead of whatever else was going on. He gave me a reason to be whole again, even if just for four quarters. If it weren’t for that one science teacher who let me hang out after school, just to be in a quiet place where no one asked me anything and I didn’t have to smile fake smiles because I didn’t like him, but he smiled anyway. “See you tomorrow,” he’d say. And I’d answer back, “Whatever,” and roll my eyes. But I’d be back, because he didn’t expect anything of me. If it weren’t for that English teacher who let me push boundaries safely rather than pushing back and rolling the dice to see if I’d push them unsafely. If it weren’t for the principal who exuded confidence and didn’t pity me. He knew my story, but he expected me to be the best I could be anyway – no excuses. If it weren’t for these people and more…I could have slipped through the cracks.
I’m not saying that it’s all on teachers or parents or any ONE. I am saying, though, that we can keep trying. We can not only complain about it, but BE the change. Maybe that means we’re part of the conversations that change policies. Maybe it means we volunteer at sporting events or for a youth group. Maybe you’ve got some other creative way of getting in there and helping. But let’s keep the balls rolling in the right direction, protect the kids we can, guide the kids who are open to it, and be adults they can look up to.
Let’s find those moments of contentment – of children being joyful, and cultivate them more and more. Maybe we all need to show up just a little bit more.