The free will of a teenager
Today I was driving by a high-school just after 3:30pm. All of the students have to be out of the school by 3:30pm due to Covid protocol. There was a group of about 10-15 kids standing in a small group talking and laughing together, on the sidewalk, in front of the school. I am pretty sure they were not waiting for their bus (because of where they were standing) and I am also fairly certain all these kids were not in the same “cohort”. A year ago I would not have given this a second thought. Today my initial reaction was anger. I was mad. How irresponsible of these kids to be standing in a group, no more then 2 inches from each other. This undermines every single rule put in place to protect everyone at that school which includes my child, and the teachers who have taken on the responsibility of cleaning and all the new procedures to keep our kids and themselves safe.
How dare these kids be so irresponsible! Don’t they know the lengths we have all gone to, to keep them safe? The sleepless nights, as parents, we have spent agonizing over wether or not we should send them back to school? The amount of planning that has taken place to make sure they are in contact with the least amount of people as possible during their school day? The answer is NO. NO they don’t, because they are kids! Rest assured I am not saying in any way, that these are bad kids. I am also not saying that this is the school/teachers responsibility. Most adults, from what I have experienced can’t handle social distancing. Have you been to a store lately? For the most part social distancing is not happening. The waterfront over the long weekend...the beach and playground areas jam packed! So how can we expect kids, who have been locked up, away from social connection since March, to follow social distancing rules? The answers is we can’t. This is, in my opinion, the tragic flaw in the return to school plan. We can do all the right things to make sure that school is as safe as it can be. The reality is, you can’t expect kids to hold up their end of this bargain. It is too heavy for them (which I totally, completely and wholeheartedly understand). The piece of the puzzle that has not been accounted for is what our kids have been through and how hard it has been on them. This is not normal. What they are dealing with, we have never dealt with before. Add social media, news outlets criticizing the government, conspiracy theories, and general worry and fear over a disease that can kill, and you have a perfect storm for kids to check out of this debate because it is just too much. They just want to be kids. They want to see their friends. They want to play sports. They want to connect. Their basic essential needs are not being met which means they are all to willing to throw the rule book out the window because they don’t/can’t see the full consequences of their actions (again, because they are kids!!!!)
This is a factor that can’t be calculated. It is also a factor that, and this is only my opinion, was not taken into account. There were not enough conversations around what our kids have endured and if they are capable, based on the challenges they have lived with over past 8 months, to follow the rules and understand the consequences after enduring isolation and social disconnection for this long. There is not enough hand sanitizer or masks in the world to fix this part of the equation that has been overlooked. The free will of a teenager is going to win this battle and maybe even the war. As a parent to an awesome teen that is missing the “old” normal, and is adapting to the “new normal,” I get it. Erin xo