Today I took the boys to the library. I chose to walk, pushing them in our double stroller contraption rather than taking the T. My pants are getting snug at the waist and I’m trying to do something about it. That was 3.2 miles round trip.
On the way back, we stopped at a nice playground that we haven’t been to before. Shortly after we got there, five boys came running over and jumped the fence into the playground. These were middle school boys, 7th or 8th grade, and they were dropping the F-bomb and the n-bomb left and right***. They planted their butts firmly on the play structure meant for the youngest of kids and continued to posture about who knows what.
I, being the middle school teacher and all around bitch, chewed them out. “I didn’t do it!” replied one boy. I responded, pointing to the worst offender, “He did.” I went on to lecture them about how they were so much older than the children who were meant to use this playground and that their language was unacceptable in front of young children. The worst offender tried to bluff his way out of it but finally claimed he didn’t see the boys. “And now that you know they are here?” I asked in my sternest teacher voice. “I guess I’ll stop” These kids CLEARLY have had too much time on their hands, too little supervision and have been getting in trouble all summer. They eventually left but not before one of the boys asked me quietly, “Are you going to have to leave because we’re here?” “Your presence is not the problem, the language is.” He nodded and went back to his group.
Less than two blocks later, I saw another group of middle school kids (same racial mix as the first). But this group was working in a community garden and it was beautiful. I stopped and talked to the kids, praising their hard work. They were very proud of what they had created and told me the name of the program they were in.
It’s a very common refrain in this country to hear parents excusing short school years by saying kids need time to be kids. And in many homes it works because the kids are usually schlepping from one activity to another, from one week long camp to another or they are supervised in some other way. In other words, there is an adult keeping them out of trouble somehow. But not in all. Many families stop the daytime supervision once the kid hits 11 or 12, leaving them at loose ends. Kids at loose ends get in trouble. They get in trouble with the law, they get knocked up or at the mildest end of the spectrum, they get chewed out for behaving badly in public by some strange, crazy lady.
We need accessible, quality summer programs for all kids.
Speaking of all kids, I broke one of my cardinal rules on Sunday. I don’t ever get money to the folks begging on the streets here. I don’t know what they will do with it… drugs, alcohol, who knows. I also don’t know their real story and so many of the same beggers are in the same place day after day after day. I’ve seen them come in on the T. However, Sunday, I saw a man with a sign, “My son and I are homeless” next to a church. There was a middle school boy trying to fad into the very wall of the cathedral. It ate at me. He ate at me. I went up the street and made a Starbucks gift card for enough for a meal (yes, they have healthy food) and I went back and talked to the boy. He was 11, claimed to go to Boston schools. Seemed like a nice boy. Like a boy who could have been in any of my classes. I hope he will be okay.
*** Why was this a problem? Well, I must admit that my children have heard me swear. I’ve heard my children swear and I try so hard not to laugh when they do because it is hilarious. Honestly, if it had just been the Fbomb, I probably would not have lit into the kids like that but I draw the line with nigga this and nigga that. My oldest is a little oblivious and I don’t think he’s ever heard that word before but I REALLY did not want to have to break him of a new word two weeks before school started.