Boys Gone Wild – It Takes a Village at the Family Fun Center
Summary – Not all boys are destructive, but nearly every destructive person is a boy. That’s not a value judgment it’s just a reality.
If you want to see why the world is the way it is just go hang out a family entertainment center and watch the action.
In San Jose there’s a killer place called Sky High Sports. It’s a huge industrial space with 30 foot ceilings that’s been converted into a trampoline facility. The main room is the size of a basketball court. The entire floor is made up of a interlocked grid of trampolines. The walls are at 30 degree angles and they too are made of trampolines. So basically you can run, bounce, jump, flip and ricochet to your heart’s content.
There’s another smaller trampoline room with the same configuration that is set up for dodgeball games that they run every ten minutes.
Next to that is the seven and under trampoline room and next to that is the foam pit. And the foam pit is where this story begins and ends.
The foam pit has three lanes. Each lane is clearly marked with a colorful mat – lane 1, lane 2, and lane 3. Each lane has two trampoline sections. So basically you make two or more big bounces and then launch yourself into the pit. You climb out the same way so everyone must wait for the previous person to get out before they can do their run.
The kids are all lined up, perhaps four or five at each lane. Mostly girls in the four to nine age range.
Suddenly a boy comes running across. He bounces and leaps across all three lanes and then back again and then launches himself in the middle of the pit. His friend soon follows. They’re perhaps nine years old. They climb out of the pit, bounce around again and then launch themselves into the pit a second time.
The girls, who have been patiently waiting their turn, just stand there in silence. However I’m pissed.
“Hey, you two! There is a line here. Everyone takes their turn. Go to the end if you want to jump.”
They seem genuinely surprised. However, I can’t tell if they are surprised to learn that there are three lines of people waiting their turn, or that someone actually held them accountable for their behavior. It’s a tough call.
Now I’ve been here at least five times and this is one of the most predictable occurrences. Without fail a boy or two, usually age five to nine, will just blast through and jump into the pit – sometimes three times before someone forces them to stop. Now, not every boy does this, this is a small minority – perhaps five or ten percent at most – but it is ALWAYS a boy and NEVER ever a girl.
The girls always take their turn, are in tune with their environment, and generally just “get it’. However a small minority of the boys treat the world as theirs and are completely oblivious to anyone else’s needs.
Compounding the problem is the absence of their parents. Without exception, the boys who just run over the other kids have no adult supervision. I have no idea if these two situations are related, could be complete coincidence as my sample of subjects is so small, but I do know it shifts the parenting responsibilities to others if they aren’t around. That’s assuming they would even notice or say anything if they were present.
Now being the parent of a shy girl I’m especially sensitive to this. If another kid is taking advantage of my daughter she just let’s it happen. She’ll rarely speak up and defend her interests or territory. Someday she will, but at seven years old she’s no match for a rambunctious nine-year old boy who just takes whatever he wants.
Unfortunately, this is the norm for girls. They just suffer in silence. So I say what they don’t have the courage or confidence to say which is “knock it off and get in line”.
So what does this have to do with the state of the world? Everything. Pretty much every problem in the world can be directly linked to an errant boys behavior. If someone’s being shot, stabbed, beaten or raped, good money says it’s a boy (man) doing it. If someone ruining fortunes and swindling investors it’s probably a man who thinks only of themselves. If someone dumping waste in the river or polluting the skies without restraint, it’s probably a man who treats the word as his personal trashcan.
Now granted, men hold the vast majority of positions of authority and power in the world so they have far more opportunities than women to fuck things up, and there are plenty of powerful women who behave like sociopaths, but this dynamic is played out all over the word though every culture and ever ethnic and socioeconomic group. Rich or poor, black or white, it’s the dudes who are messing things up.
If someone shoots their own children and then turns the gun on themselves, it’s a guy doing it. Rampage at the office leaving a dozen coworkers dead or injured, yep it’s a guy. If you’re getting cold cocked, having your leg peed on at a concert, or having your car window smashed with a bat, there’s guy’s appendage attached to the other end.
So what about these rambunctious boys at the trampoline place that just cut in front and pay no attention to social etiquette? Are they tomorrow headlines? Probably not. They’ll most likely get a clue eventually and turn out fine. But behind every male criminal is a boy who at one point was mostly indistinguishable from his peers. He was just a kid. His parents never thought their son would grow up to rob a bank, stab a stranger or deal meth. No one does.
Now male energy is a wonderful thing. It’s what got us out of the caves and across the oceans. It’s what drove most of our modern inventions. It’s a restlessness and confidence that enables men to take great chances, to disregard convention and to be willing to destroy what they have in the attempt to make something new from the pieces. I’m a guy and I get it. It does feel good to shake things up.
Yet, if you line up all the first grade boys at any school in any city in America, it’s absolutely certain than some will end up in prison because they never learned to control their male energy.
This is why I think it’s important for adults to level the playing field, not only with their own children’s abilities, but throughout society as well.
I know my daughter is shy and has trouble asserting herself, so we give that area a little extra attention. Same with her teacher. She’s doesn’t need any help in being shy. She’s got that one down quite well.
Other parents have the opposite dynamic with a bold and fearless child who will take whatever they want. So they’ll need to focus on giving them attention is the areas they are lacking such as empathy, sharing, and observing social cues.
But parents can’t accomplish this on their own. This is where the painfully cheesy, yet accurate “it takes a village” concept comes in. I shouldn’t have to school these kids on etiquette but I will if I have to. We all should. Every parent should be looking out for all the children in their immediate area, not just their own. If a kid’s bullying it’s your job to step in whether it involves your child or not. If a child is putting themselves in harm’s way or acting rude, foolish, or destructive it’s your job to say something.
It’s also a two-way street as I also expect other parents to treat my daughter the same way. If she’s out of line, and I’m not there, then yes, as an adult, it’s your responsibility to say something. Don’t just let her play with broken glass, go into a dangerous crawl space, or tease another child. She’s only seven. Her ability to assess risk and to fully comprehend and predict consequences doesn’t mature until age twenty-five. That’s a long, long, ways away.
So that’s my wish. Let’s all step up a bit and not be afraid to get involved. There are things that all parents agree upon that involve safety, kindness, and fairness. There is nothing wrong with drawing the line on those issues.
And if you don’t like us interfering with your “parenting”, then get your act together and pay attention to what your kid is doing. We all see the consequences when parents shift their responsibilities on to society. It’s not pretty and often ends with the proper authorities.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
File Under: Teaching Young Boys to Control Their Inconsiderate Behavior – It Takes a Village to Raise a Child, Especially When Their Real Parent is Slacking Off