I work with kids and teens in an after school-type activity and one of them had an assessment yesterday. This girl, maybe 8th or 9th grade, came in crying and freaking out because there was just too much going on in her life and this assessment was the last thing she was prepared to deal with on top of everything else.
I talked her down, reminded her that it was just us, we were just there to determine what was going well and what needed improvement, and that the only reason there was a Pass/No Pass type evaluation at the end was to … well, to scare the lazy kids into taking it seriously.
But man… I have to reevaluate that tactic after my conversation with her.
She is so stressed out. I’m stressed out because I have two young children and two jobs and not enough money and less than not enough sleep but compared to her? I’m doing pretty well.
I just started thinking about all the kids her age and why they seem to be struggling so much more than I did back in the day. And mind you, I struggled too. But not like this. Not the weight of the whole wide world.
I mean, set aside for a second the whole school shootings/you could actually die from trying to get an education issue for a second (as if you could, honestly) to think about the message they’re always getting:
Everything you do now has DIRE CONSEQUENCES! Don’t mess up. Don’t slow down. DON’T CLOSE YOUR EYES, CHILDREN! YOUR DOOM AWAITS YOU!
My GAWD, we need to let up! We need to stop enforcing the idea that adult success is predicated upon adolescent decisions. I mean… things change, people change, circumstances change. I got an F in math once but I’m not whoring on street corners because a bad grade in math directly correlates to an inability to manage my finances or find adequate work.
Why are we all so afraid of failure? So very afraid of making the wrong decision, of buying the wrong brand, of saying the wrong thing and having it haunt us forever? And why are we infecting the brains of kids who FOR REAL have much more important things to deal with (like being MURDERED AT SCHOOL) with our own insecurities?
Listen up, kids: There are things you can’t come back from, yes. Being murdered or kidnapped or abused or raped. Being someone WHO murders or kidnaps, abuses and/or rapes. But failing a class? Choosing the wrong major? Not scoring perfectly on an assessment? Those are things you learn from. You make adjustments and changes. You discover new things about yourself.
And adults: LAY OFF! Worry about MURDER AND KIDNAPS AND ABUSE AND RAPE. Then help your kids deal with disappointment, failure, mistakes. Give them the space to screw up and come back from it. Love them for exactly who they are and what they can already do and then encourage them see what else they’re capable of.
But I shouldn’t have to comfort a crying teenager because she’s so afraid of not being perfect that she breaks down when admitting that she’s not.
And let’s freaking do something about those GUNS, huh? Vote out the NRA whores and elect officials who aren’t so transparently corrupt. Because there’s no excuse for it. There’s no logical explanation for children having to fear for their lives at school. Any politician not willing to DO SOMETHING about that doesn’t deserve a job in public service.