Saturday, April 7, 2012

Kids These Days

We have been pretty laid back on this trip.  It was not for nothing  we adopted the motto, “Just Roll With It.”  That principle has reduced our stress, led us into surprising and delightful situations and friendships, and kept me from committing The Murder every day we are stuck on the hard.  But we can’t always just let things roll for the kids.  School: fine.  Family time: no problem.  But, friends: issue.  So we work hard to find other kids and let our girls run wild with them.

One nice thing about cruising kids is they are all in the same boat, as it were.  (Oh!  Inadvertent pun!  Boo, Amy, boo!)  They all want friends.  This neatly overrides considerations of age, gender and language.  Our girls will play with anyone within a decade of their own age.  They have learned to be gregarious.  Stylish has overcome the shyness I regret having passed on to her.  (Indy escaped that trait; she is her father’s daughter, and can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to talk to her.)  But this constant making and leaving of friendships has given me an interesting peek into Young People These Days.

In the early days, we met land kids.  We were travelling down the east coast of the US in late fall, and all of the boat kids were ahead of us in the Bahamas.  So we would go ashore, haunt the parks and find someone to play with.  I was nearby only due to Indy’s tender age, and I did my best to fade into invisibility.  (Kids do not need us in so many ways, and Erik and I are delighted to see how independent and resourceful the girls are are when we step back. [/end Amy’s parenting philosophy])

Stylish had her first great success in the Carolinas.  She befriended a quiet girl of about nine, and the two of them played Ninja Training School on the broken tennis courts for days on end.  As they practiced jumping kicks and Indy ran in circles around them, I was able to observe other vignettes of small town kid life.

One afternoon, two teenage girls hopped onto the swings.  They were almost identically dressed – clean faces, athletic pants, ponytails, t-shirts and hoodies.  My instinct said volleyball team.  They sat for a while and chatted, until clones from other group came along.  Two girls wearing dangly earrings, makeup, tight jeans, Ugg boots and sideswept hairstyles approached.  The sporty girls immediately hopped off the swings and left.  The posh girls took their places without batting an eye, as though it were their natural right.

This shook me to my core.  Growing up, I’d been a fan of the Molly Ringwald oeuvre of movies, and, if pressed, I still could probably recite the entire script of The Breakfast Club.  These films depicted the cruel world of a high school class system so sclerotic, so immutable that the British aristocracy of centuries past would have thought it all a bit inflexible.  My own high school was too small and Canadian for such cliques to form, and besides, this was film.  It wasn’t real – these things weren’t true.  But, apparently, they are.  The way the cool girls effortlessly booted the athletic girls –without a word, without a raised eyebrow, without a blink on either side – it was terrifying.  I’m stupefied.  Who knows how the entire hierarchy is built, but I am grateful my girls don’t have to find a place within it.  Yuck.

You mean, we don't have to stay in our tiny little social boxes?
But not everyone lives in a John Hughes movie.  As we pushed further south, male friends came along, older friends came along, younger friends came along.  Indy hit a milestone not long before her third birthday by making her first friend completely on her own, a boy in Guatemala who spoke no English.  The two of them bonded over a mutual love of Lightning McQueen.  Racer showed off his Cars stickers; Indy presented her Cars t-shirts.  This accomplished, they ran after each other and tumbled in the grass like puppies for about three days.

Buddha makes an excellent babysitter.
Sometimes we met kids the girls loved.  In Cartagena especially, we met boat after boat of wonderful kids.

It has been interesting to be in this marina for so long, because the kid-dynamic is different again.  There are a lot of kids here, enough that cliques are forming. 

Know thy place.
And I shouldn’t be surprised that ten-year-olds form packs, exclude other kids, tease, trick, and otherwise act like monsters, but there it is.  I don’t think I could teach in middle school; I think it would put me off the human race..  Happily, the girls, while bewildered by some of the behaviour they have witnessed, aren’t involved in it.  They have found some nice friends here, and have bonded over diving for toy torpedoes and pushing each other in the water.  May that happy self-assurance last.

We’ll just march to our own beat, thanks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Learning how to deal with others is probably one of the most important lessons that the girls will lean on this adventure.

I am with you on Middle School. Why do you think I taught the rug rats all those years-sheer joy.
Love Mom