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Kids surround me. Kids from ages 5 to 17 surround me. I have some in my house and then a bunch at my workplace. Because their ages vary so much I have different behavioral expectations for each of them. I expect that my 5 year old will behave differently than my 15 year old- I expect this, doesn’t mean it is true. It seems the older they get the higher the expectation.
It seems many of us who spend our day with kids, forget that they are kids. We start expecting them to behave like adults. And sure, we want them to behave like proper civilized human beings. But is that reasonable? While driving in the car one time, my kids told me that adults were human. Well, yeah, I knew that. But I had to ask, if we are human then what are kids? They unanimously told me that kids are aliens.
I think they are right. They do things us adults would never do. They put rubber snakes in the dog’s water dish. They run around the house on all fours and growl like a cheetah.
They can make a gun out of just about anything and that gun can shoot anything from a bullet to freezer rays. They fling yogurt across the table to see if they can hit the wall (this is when the humans are not watching). They sneak rocks in their backpack to school to because they are precious and valuable.
They try to flush the cat down the toilet. They place a variety of objects all across the floor and make you walk on them you that you don’t step in the hot lava.
I am pretty sure as human adults we do not put snakes in the dog dish nor run around on all fours. I am not sure I can even do that. As human adults we have somehow been transformed from our alien days to this human form. But I have a feeling it was slow process. I have a feeling it took time and learning. Someone, and it was probably a human, helped us get to our human form. So we slowly made our way from alien status to humanity.
Today, I think we forget about those alien years. A lot of us want perfectly behaved kids at all times. We want the impossible. It never works that way either. For some people it seems that their kids are always behaved and perfect, but I am sure they have their own special alien moments.
Like when my son laid on the floor during a quiet moment during Mass and started yelling about how he had to get out of there.
The problem comes when kids are in school and they suddenly do these strange alien things and then they get into trouble. Big trouble. My oldest son got an orange slip for walking over a pile of snow. If you do not know what an orange slip is, it is what you get when you have been bad- you get one for punching a kid in the face. Now that is bad. But, if there is a large pile of snow and a group of boys- oh my, trouble is bound to arise. I understand that there are rules. So, the boys broke the rules. But was it as bad a thing as hitting someone in the face? Nah. They were being kids.
They lacked self-control. They needed to be reminded of the rule. But not sent to the principal. And not made to feel like criminals. Middle School is the hardest. They are starting to look like humans, but they are still fully alien.
Kids keep getting in trouble for being kids. My son and his friends liked to play rough. They liked to play really rough. They are boys. This is what boys do, but for some reason we think they are all bullies and potential serial killers. They are aliens. This is what they do.
And as adults in their lives it is our responsibility to guide them and lead them, but not to judge them. To understand that they are still kids and their behavior will reflect that, but we do not need to make them feel bad for being kids.
A girl got in trouble for being hyper. I clearly remember being in 7th grade and running around during lunch with my friend and we would actually decide to be hyper. Eventually we outgrew this phase. I no longer have the desire to run around during lunch bugging people and being hyper.
Kids get to the high school and many have reached human hood or are close to it and they are in good shape, but many get here just coming out of alien phase and they are broken. People have been judging them and making them feel bad about who they are instead of just gently guiding them towards the path to adulthood.
We need to let them be kids from time to time. We need to respect the alien within them and enjoy it.
Los Alamos Columnist