I know watching 40 teenagers walk into a fast food restaurant must have been intimidating. They were loud. They were large. There were so many of them.
I know our line stretched through the aisles. I know you weren’t expecting us.
I know how you were probably clutching to the edge of sanity with your newborn and two toddlers in tow. And how meeting your friend sitting next to you with her children was your moment to breathe today.
I’ve been there. I get it.
But when you rolled your eyes at my teenage students? When you mouthed angry words into your cell phone about a bus full of teens interrupting your lunch? When your body language huffed and puffed?
My hinges loosened and the glue sticking my emotions together just about lost its grip.
From my place in the back of the line, I silently dared you to say just one mean word to my students. Just one. Because I would have asked you some questions.
Questions that might have gone something like this…
Have my students touched your children? Have they yelled obscenities across the restaurant? Did they run through the aisles shoving people out of the way? Were they disrespectful to you? Did their eyes roll into the back of their heads when they saw your adorable children happily eating their nuggets?
I watched. I watched my girls ooo and ahhh over your babes. I watched my large-taking-up-lots-of-space boys attempt to make themselves small to avoid bumping your table. I watched their uncertainty at the crowded restaurant.
You did nothing to help their insecurities. (Teens are full of those…)
They were a bunch of high schoolers trying to each lunch.
Just like you.
Yet you instantly assumed my students were hellions bent on destroying your playdate. They weren’t. I promise.
Can you remember sixteen? Because I sure can. It was torturous. I felt lost, unsure of what identity even meant, much less owning my own.
Students today? Oh, how their lives face a sea of issues that didn’t even exist when we were their age. For teenagers right now? It. Is. Hard. Like the kind of hard we can’t define or put shape to.
I feel like you need to know some things about my students.
Did you know one of those big-tall boys played with my five-year-old Caleb for hours at a football game this fall? And that was before he knew the kid was mine. My student simply saw a lonely little boy tossing a football in the air when he began to play catch with Caleb.
Did you know the bus of students had just cheered on our school’s cheerleaders at a competition? Did you know their hearts were broken when our girls lost?
You didn’t get to see how those same students cheered for other teams who had no one at the competition to support them, did you? You didn’t get to see that.
Did you get a chance to see how patiently they waited for their lunch? Or did you notice not a single student was disrespectful to the staff? And that these scary teenagers did everything the other chaperone and I asked them to do? (Without a single eye-roll, I might add.)
Did you know those babies at your table will be teenagers before you can even blink? How do you want the world to see them?
I know I offer my observations from a biased perspective.
But here’s the thing. I see these students every day. I know their rough edges. I know their flaws. They aren’t perfect. I know that. Neither am I.
I’ve cried with the teens who’ve lost parents. I’ve held the shaking shoulders of students facing the wound of a broken friendship. I’ve watched the blank eyes of children walking through their parents’ divorce.
I also know their hearts. And given the chance—teens can show you souls deep and wide. I see how they want to make a difference in this world. I see their dreams.
They hold your future.
So, Momma Who Rolled Her Eyes, I’m just sad. Disheartened because you didn’t take even a split second to see.
To see the humans in front of you.
They’re more desperate for your approval than you realize.
Than they realize.
It only takes them one hot second to read your judgment. Because teens? They see right through a façade. Right straight through.
So yes. They saw you roll your eyes. They may have played it off, like no big deal—just another adult in their world that doesn’t take the time.
But even though they don’t know you. You still hurt my students.
And that’s not okay.
Do you know what I hope? I hope the next time you see a teen, or even a group of teens, I hope you smile. I hope you make eye-contact. I hope you say hi.
No. They may not say hi back. They may be too busy being surprised.
But you’re the adult. You’re the one needing to set the example.
How else will they learn?
Momma Bear Teacher