For many of today’s kids, experience is often confined to playdates, organized sports, tutoring sessions, afterschool homework centers, and summer camps—all structured programs where the young rarely risk failure or rejection and are often rewarded no matter their engagement or achievement. As a consequence, the youngest generation are fragile, unpracticed at navigating life when it doesn’t quite work according to plan.
Indulge me as I wax nostalgic for a few paragraphs. As a kid, my mom encouraged us to play outside until dark, as much as possible. She even staged lunchtime picnics on the front lawn—I imagine to save her floors from the stickiness of popsicles and peanut butter and because we were often wet from running in sprinklers or slip ‘n sliding.
For fun, we experimented with how many neighborhood kids we could fit in the Radio Flyer while rolling down my parents’ driveway—the steepest incline in the cul-de-sac—but turning at the last moment to stay on the sidewalk since my mom forbade playing in the street. [It’s six BTW, and don’t seat the littlest kid, my younger brother, in the back, a surefire recipe for moms to stream out of homes—in case you’re wondering, my brother’s okay, no lasting injuries.]
We wore no helmets, no knee pads, no protective gear of any kind, not even closed-toe shoes. I’m not promoting that living in my suburban, tract home, middle class neighborhood was not sheltered. Many watchful parental eyes were on us, as many moms weren’t working outside our homes, which is probably a major reason my parents were reasonably assured that I was safe playing in and around the neighborhood until dark.
In retrospect, I learned resilience, confronting daily rejections when Mrs. Clemo said that Lisa couldn’t play after spontaneously knocking on her door after school. I learned that “no” on Wednesday might be “yes” on Thursday if only I went back to Lisa’s house. And, even when “rejected”, another opportunity arose, like playing kickball with kids around the bend of the street, making new friends.
However, in advising teenagers for the past two decades, many are delicate, especially noticeable when life doesn’t work out as planned, where an A- is akin to Armageddon. They are accustomed to experiencing life in bits, where there’s a scheduled end, awarded with participation trophies, there’s little practice “losing” then knowing with confidence drawn from learned experience that an unmet expectation is survivable.
So, perhaps, the silver-lining within the COVID-induced chaos is kids once again were able to be kids. Scraping their knees without a Bactine spray-down from multiple moms. Reevaluating commitments to various activities and teams in their noticeable absence. Learning that life doesn’t always work as planned, and therein lies the real lesson that difficulty only makes us stronger, capable of overcoming even greater and inevitable adversity that is guaranteed to arise as a by-product of a fuller life experience.
For more information about how Creative Marbles Consultancy can help students and parents during the transition to new educational modes of learning, contact us at Creative Marbles Consultancy