The incident caught on tape of Karen Klein, the school bus monitor being bullied, made me spend some time reflecting on how times have changed. My elementary school years were spent in a public school whose principal, Ms. Winters, had to have been a former mercenary for a third world dictator. No one ever dared to cross Ms. Winters or any of the teachers who were her clones. Talking in the halls was prohibited and if you had to go to the bathroom you had to wait until you got permission. Your bladder after several years of “holding “was probably as efficient as a Camels. Acting up in class was considered an act of infamy and if it did occur consisted mainly of laughing inappropriately or trying to get another kids’ attention while the teacher was talking. The latter indiscretions would lead to verbal reprimands by the teacher in front of your peers, which was embarrassing to say the least. Marring the surface of your desk, making faces or whispering to someone sitting next to you meant you would make the dreaded trip to Ms. Winters office. I, of course, made several trips to see her due to lack of “self control”. This meant sitting in a chair in her waiting room until she deemed it was time for her to give you “what for”. Her reprimands usually consisted of asking you “What makes you think you can behave the way you do”?, and “How do you think your mother will feel when I talk to her about your unruly behavior? Once I got home I heard the whole lecture again and had to stay in the house after school as a punishment. The Nuns I had in High School expected even more self discipline. I probably could have been a Monk when I graduated. What got me and my school mates in trouble seems to be like the proverbial pimple on an elephants butt compared to some of the mean spirited incivility that seems rampant today. Perhaps it was because kids had a much greater fear of authority, or parents didn’t feel that their kids should be the center of the universe.. I just know that the Klein incident should have created a national forum on civility and how it’s recidivism is creating a more aggressive, impatient and rude society. If we do not begin to rein in this problem we will end up with a society of self-absorbed individuals who have no ability to empathize. And this my friends is often the beginning of the end!
I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but something happens to people when they’re in the presence of toddlers. They become semi comatose and transfixed by everything the children do. The same thing happens with cats and dogs. Perhaps we are in awe of their playfulness and their ability to be in the moment, and at the same time saddened by our loss of it. All adult eyes seem glued to the child’s every moment, and each word uttered becomes a pearl of wisdom. We are sure as we watch that a new version of Einstein is in our midst. Adult conversation becomes sprinkled with “oohs” and “ahs”. Statements are uttered, such as “Did you see him pick up that bug? I can’t believe it! Why, I wouldn’t dare. “Oh, she said she had to go potty. Isn’t that clever?” “ When it comes time to eat, each child is encouraged to “Eat it all up, or “Here comes the train. All gone. Won’t Big Bird be happy?” Whenever I’m a witness to the above, I realize that being grown-up isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. When’s the last time someone watched you all day and oohed and ahed? And how many of us have tripped and been made to feel okay? Normally the “big klutz” sign goes up and somebody makes a smart comment, such as “Have a nice trip.” I’ve also never been anywhere where a group of adults thought a bug was cute. There seems to be a united front to kill and remove the body as quickly as possible without any signs of remorse. Maybe we should consider throwing a party and have everyone come dressed as a toddler. We could make mud pies, play ring around the rosy, and not worry if everything we eat becomes part of what we’re wearing. We could appoint someone to be a doting parent that tells us we’re fabulous every five minutes or so. Unfortunately, adults, with their never ending need to become analytical would turn it into group therapy in order to discover why each individual was behaving like a child and try to find the right medication so they could calm down. What so many adults have forgotten is how to let that little kid come out once in awhile. Embrace your imagination, your sense of playfulness and your ability to be present to the wonder that is available in the everyday. You’ll find you’ll be less stressed and a lot happier.