Archive for Thursday, September 18, 2008

Teens’ cliquishness, cruelty nothing new

September 18, 2008

The recent cool and rainy weather is making inroads on my consciousness.

My oldest grandson has been back in school in seventh grade at Clark Middle School in Bonner Springs for almost a month now and the 7-year-old grandson in Portland is securely embarked on his journey through the second grade, although he didn't begin until after Labor Day.

Both of my granddaughters are busy with their own educational tracks. The 4-year-old is in preschool, and my 2-year-old baby granddaughter is getting an education in socialization in her daycare setting where she rules over two male compatriots, one her age and the other a year older. She makes sure that they treat her with all the respect and obedience a princess requires - or they suffer the consequences.

As I approach the final stretch of my journey through life, I am constantly reminded of my first few miles by the experiences I see undertaken by my grandchildren, children and the grandchildren and children of my contemporaries. They give ultimate meaning to my life and great hope for the future. We all begin our journey the same way - helpless and dependent - and often we end it the same way. It is what we do along the way that's important. The problem for us all lies in what we believe is truly important. Often that changes during our journey. We begin thinking that things like great wealth, fame, beauty, and popularity are what we want out of our lives. When I was in junior high, I daydreamed of someday returning to my hometown with a parade in honor of me seated on a beautiful white steed. I never considered what I might do to deserve such an honor. I just wanted it.

Needless to say, as I grew older, my dreams changed. I grew up on a farm far from the nearest populated area - a small town. I began my school life dressed in overalls with suspenders and braids. It didn't matter that I wasn't in high style because I was in the company of only a few other youngsters - including my cousins and later my sister. I just wanted to wear jeans that only came to my waist like my boy cousins. Then when I began attending town school, I received a rude shock. All of the other girls wore cute dresses and neat shoes. Their hair was carefully cut, permed and coiffed. I was a hick! And, I was excluded from the really "important" cliques. They huddled together and whispered and rolled their eyes at me. This probably shaped my goals for many years including my college years. After years passed, I realized that the values I needed to observe in order to be accepted by the "in" crowd had nothing to do with what I really wanted from life. Looking great, being popular and behaving like the "in" people was not something I felt comfortable wearing spiritually.

I particularly worry about my own grandchildren, but I am concerned about all the young ones making their first steps and missteps on the long road that is life. I think that teenagers are particularly susceptible to wanting to belong to a group of their peers and behaving in a way compatible with their companions. Sometimes, when I see a group of youngsters gathered near the school parking lot after classes have ended, talking earnestly to each other while keeping a wary eye out for those not of their group, I want to rush over to them and tell them not to close their circle of friends, that those who are different are not undesirable. If they don't look around them and open their minds to those who are different, they will not experience a richness of life only given to those who are open-minded. Each of us is unique and each has unique and marvelous gifts to offer the world - if only the world will see us.

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