So it seems there’s some opposition to my very active habit of scolding and correcting other people’s children. I admit I’m a one-woman army against bad kid-ism, and it’s a running joke between me and my friends that someday, one of these giant sequoia teenagers is going to give me the ol’ ground and pound. Y’all are making this New Millennium Model of Teen mighty big.
They might tower over me, and their parents might think I’m out of line, but I still believe it takes a village to raise a child. And dangit, I’m the village.
I grew up in the '80s in a community. I love that word: com-mun-it-y. Which means, it was more than a neighborhood where various households of people lived next door to one another, trudged home from work at the same time, and maybe nodded a greeting to each other on the weekends. It was a space where people trusted each other and even got together for cookouts and block parties or, at the very least, to watch each other’s kids.
I knew the man and his “roommate” next door. I knew the single guy, Benson, in the basement apartment. I knew the older lady upstairs and sometimes carried her groceries to the fourth floor for her when I was coming in from school. They knew me … and they knew my mother. So trust and believe if I was ever foolish enough to try to pull a shenanigan — and unfortunately for my poor, weathered rear end, I was that foolish, more times than a few — she got a full report about it before she even stepped foot across the front door. That was the part of being in a com-mun-it-y that I hated. Back then.
But now, as I see more children, especially teenagers, making such terrible decisions on the train, in the store, on the streets, I’d be a real heel if I didn’t say something to keep a bad situation from getting worse.
I don’t believe anything happens by coincidence. Not to get all spooky and mystical, but I think people are placed in certain scenarios on purpose, specifically for that place and time. So it might be that I have in me the very words that need to be said to change the trajectory of a course of events. So if I see a kid hanging on a handrail on the subway and they’re capable of either 1) falling and hurting their own fool selves or 2) kicking and knocking the daylights out of some innocent bystander in the process of their silliness, then yep, I’m going to tell them to sit it on down.
I’ve told young ladies they were too beautiful to have such ugly words coming out of their mouths and checked young men for letting their pants droop so low that their whole behinds were peeking out. Once in a while, they roll their eyes. But so far, so good: I’ve never been cussed at or beaten to a bloody pulp. Two thumbs up.
I do put my guardian angel into overtime, though. I know she wishes I’d sit down and zip it myself once in a while and stop trying to save the doggone world.
It’s not that I even think I’m doing that. It’s obvious that some kids come from homes where they’re raised to know better and they’re just showing out and smelling themselves like kids sometimes do.
But there are others coming from home lives where they can do whatever they darn well please whenever they want to do it. I can tell a rough and tumble teenager in a heartbeat because they’ve got way more swagger than I do, even though I’ve had way more time on the Earth to build mine up. But that doesn’t mean that they should be allowed to just run wild and that doesn’t mean that they’re not craving the correction and advisement of a concerned adult, even if they aren’t aware of it. It actually catches them off guard.
And as much as I dole out “don’t do that,” I also give out praise and high fives. Yep, to complete strangers. It’s all in a day’s work when you’re part of a village.
Have you corrected other people’s children in public? Am I wrong for putting random teenagers in check?
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