Act #168: Hold our youth responsible. They'll thank you for it one day.
On the day my husband learned that his 91 year-old grandfather died, he was driving home and had just entered our neighborhood. As he approached our street, two 14-15 year old boys were walking in the middle of the road. They saw him coming, looked at him defiantly, and continued to take up the entire road without moving to the sidewalk. One had a water gun in his hand. My husband, though annoyed, drove carefully around them. With so much on his mind, he was eager just to get to his destination. As he passed them, one of the boys pointed the water gun at his car, and God bless him.........he squirted the car.
On any other day my husband might have just continued on his way, but today was not a lucky day for these boys. Brakes were slammed, and the car dramatically went into reverse, the boys bolted out of the way. The driver's window was down and ready by the time he pulled up to them.
The boys were horrified.
He asked them where they lived and told them to point out exactly which homes were theirs. They complied nervously. He told them that there was no need for them to act like punk kids because there were enough of those around and that if they wanted the world to respect them, they needed to start respecting others. He apparently lectured them for a good solid five minutes while their heads hung in shame and their conversation ended with multiple apologies and "yes sirs".
I wrote a blog a while ago, about the power of intervening when witnessing child abuse: http://plainjaneactivism.blogspot.com/2013/01/be-parent.html, and I can't help but wonder if there is merit to approaching teenage defiance in the same manner. What would our communities look like if we just simply didn't tolerate disrespectful behavior and we called out young people when they exhibited these behaviors? My first inclination would be that it's none of my business, and possibly unsafe. But how is this any different from me intervening with a 5-year old bully like I did in this blog: http://plainjaneactivism.blogspot.com/2013/04/how-my-sons-bully-taught-me-thing-or.html ? These kids just happen to be slightly older - but do we just give up on kids because they've passed a certain age? Harmless as their actions may have been that day, if we simply submit to the "boys will be boys" mentality, aren't we sending a clear message that those actions are acceptable, that they can continue, and that when they enter adulthood, they are entitled to take up other people's space and use intimidation to illicit attention? Who knows if these boys will think twice or not before pointing a water gun at someone else. Maybe we'll see them walking in the middle of the road again tomorrow. But maybe we won't. Maybe there's a tiny chance that they got a glimpse of how their seemingly innocent acts of boyhood rebellion, might impact real people who live in their own neighborhood. Maybe, just maybe, my husband might have changed the entire course of their futures, and prevented 2 bored kids with water guns from growing into two grown men with real guns. You never know.