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Middle School Behavior – Bad Choices & the Adults Who Support Them

So far not much information has been revealed about the middle school boy who confessed to throwing an object at the presidential motorcade. What information has been provided is that he implicated four others (when I was a kid the terminology would have been “squealed on”). The thrown object being described as a “block of wood”, a “wooden block” and a “2×4”. One had me picturing a scrap from a project, another made me think of the abc/123 wooden cubes my kids had and the final description has me visualizing an entire board. I’ve attached a photograph of the evidence to clarify.

While I’ve only read about the incident via multiple online news and social media sources, I have to say that I am fascinated by how some adults are reacting to the incident. Who are these people who affirm this sort of behavior and what would their knee-jerk reaction be to a middle school kid who was shot by a Secret Service agent as he raised his arm to throw an unknown object? Yet there in my Twitter Feed were responses such as; “too bad the car didn’t flip.”, “For once spare the rod, spoil the child.” and “then a hero comes along.”. It’s as though people don’t realize that around the world children are used to execute the plans of adults. Or perhaps they do realize that and are okay with children being used in this way, as long it supports their political views. I feel like these people may be among the same group who badmouth law enforcement and graphically describe what they would do if confronted by an officer and live to regret it when their own children are in that situation and react as their adult role models taught them to. Those situations don’t typically end well. It’s quite possible the children involved in the motorcade incident were only acting upon what they thought would please their parents. While political conversations and current issues were frequent discussion topics in my home growing up, I can think of no situation where my parents would have condoned any sort of verbal or physical attack to either express ourselves or advance our agenda. I’ve never felt hampered by being taught to be respectful of everyone, despite having differences of opinion.

I am curious if this fella will receive the same notoriety as Ahmed Mohamed, the boy whose teacher alerted the principal when the clock he had built in a pencil case beeped during class. Despite signs along our highways encouraging citizens to be vigilant if they see something they find suspicious, the English teacher and principal whose jobs involve educating and protecting students, were vilified for their caution. While the clock ultimately was innocuous, were it to have actually been an object that posed a threat they likely would have been heroes for acting or perceived co-conspirators for allowing it to be present. We live in a strange age, where it’s popular to attack authority for doing what is in their job description andĀ  throw caution to the wind and embrace the stranger whose intentions are unknown. Ultimately Ahmed received an educational scholarship, a tweet from the POTUS and visit to the White House. At one time he had a 15-million dollar lawsuit going. The sort of lawsuit that might make future school administrators less cautious and put lives at risk. My guess is this current motorcade incident garners an eventual POTUS Tweet but no White House visit during this administration.

I’m wondering if Dr. Phil is trying to get these kids and their parents booked and if they are competing with late night talk shows doing the same. We have embraced and rewarded bad behavior and made celebrities out of people simply for being rude or contrary, while at the same time we’ve challenged and demonizedĀ  others for simply asking questions. I am stupefied by how the basic standard of what being an adult is has changed and I’m concerned for what that means not only for these children but all of the other kids witnessing this decline in basic decorum.

It’s likely attorneys will line up for exposure and perhaps try to spin the impulsive actions of a middle-schooler into some sort of political commentary. Was the boy an environmentalist making a statement about the logging industry or a politically active kid making a donation to be used in the construction of a border wall? Perhaps we will find out the source of the wood was 84 Lumber, a business nobody in the Midwest knew about until they took out a Superbowl ad, which was movie-quality but told nothing about the company or the products they sell. Maybe the whole thing is some marketing scam.

Call me cynical but I tend to question the motivation behind what everyone does and on whose behalf they are actually doing it. Was this just a kid acting on a dare or impulse or is he a patsy being used to see how the Secret Service would respond to an unruly group of children? Simply a test run with a sinister motive for a future attack is a possibility that will be examined. Some might assume I’m paranoid but security can’t be too cautious in a week when Kim Jong-nam, the exiled half brother of the leader of North Korea died in a Malaysian airport attack. The scenario sounds like something out of an American crime drama series that has proverbially “jumped the shark”. The plot twist being an innocent vacationer from Vietnam being duped by thinking she was participating in a prank with his buddies when she sprayed him with a poison mist.

For those finding this wood tossing behavior acceptable, what if it were a kid throwing an object at their vehicle as they drove by? Would they be okay with a child doing the same thing to a police squad, a firetruck or an ambulance? What if it were someone throwing something at their elderly parent’s car or their own child’s school bus? If there is some new rule book about when antisocial behavior is acceptable or even endorsed I am totally out of the loop on that. Are the people in favor of self expression through violence willing to accept it when it’s directed towards themselves?

If this motorcade situation had happened when I was in middle school, chances are it would have been a group of four socially confident boys goading a socially awkward outsider into doing something stupid for their amusement. The boy acting out would do whatever the kids he admired wanted because of the naive anticipation of some implied acceptance. I’m not suggesting the child should not be held accountable, simply pointing out that it’s possible he’s more of a victim here than some mastermind architect of an attack on the president of the United States. My husband, a greater cynic than myself thinks perhaps it is simpler than that “It could be just a little asshole looking to get fame.”.

I long for the good old days when poison mist was found only in James Bond films, most adults didn’t endorse the actions of “little assholes” and kids seeking attention tried out for the school talent show. I wonder if we’ll ever know if his parents are horrified by his action or proud of him.

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Revisiting a Childhood Lesson

Nails

No matter where you are in life, you learned a lot to get there. The majority of things we carry around inside our heads we likely don’t even know the source of. Some of it is simply trivia, some of it is fascinating facts and others are things we taught ourselves while not even trying. There are yet other times where we remember exactly when and how we learned a valuable life lesson, this story is about one of those times.

I am the only daughter of an only daughter. Both my mother and I grew up with two older brothers. My grandparents were Irish immigrants who had some strong opinions about American teen culture in the 1950’s when my mother was in high school. Their daughter was not the kind of girl who wore red lipstick and knotted her pearls! Except that she was, she just did not leave the house that way or return home that way. These contraband items were carried to and from West High School in the bottom of her purse where prior to the start of class each morning a quick trip to the bathroom transformed her from “immigrant daughter” to “American teenager”. She was part of a high school sorority (the Bachelorettes) and dated her older brother’s best friend who would eventually become my father.

By the time I knew my mother in the 1960’s her makeup repertoire consisted of lipstick, 95% of which was blotted off with a quick snap of the jaw while a folded tissue was inserted between the lips. These tissues were then carried in her purse where later a corner could be moistened with a cleaning fluid known as “Mom’s Saliva” that removed traces of dirt or food from a child’s face. She also owned “rouge” (which is universally known as blush by later generations) which was worn only on occasions that required the use of Chanel No. 5 which came in a square black bottle that was never to be touched and should have been stored at Fort Knox due to its value per ounce. The one other item that was never to be touched was her bottle of nail polish. My mother had almond shaped finger nails that despite washing dishes and floors by hand were perfect with the simple maintenance of an emery board. The bottle of nail polish was for her feet during the summer months. That bottle of nail polish taught me a life lesson that my own children can recite by heart.

Our family of five shared one bathroom and that is where my mom kept her “make-up” in the second drawer to the right of the sink; rouge, a bottle of nail polish and the tubes of lipstick that were not in her purse. The Chanel No. 5 sat on a mirror on her dresser in the bedroom along with a silver comb and brush set that were not to be used. I was perhaps six or seven years old when I found myself in the bathroom, alone and tempted by the bottle of dark pink polish. I knew better than to apply any as that would be a dead giveaway that I had touched it, I just wanted to pull the brush out and drag it smoothly against the circular opening to remove the excess and get the precise amount for a perfect application. My mother had even painted my toes once or twice, so in addition to watching her paint her own toes I liked to think I had a fair amount of knowledge about nail polish. My other cosmetic experience was the use of rouge and lipstick for a dance recital where I and a group of other inexperienced first-grade tap dancers awkwardly paraded ourselves like little Broadway-bound harlots at the downtown Y. So there I was with the bottle of nail polish perched on the gold flecked Formica counter top and as I drew the brush up and out a thick and gooey droplet of the polish (I am certain this occurred in slow motion) escaped and plummeted as a perfect sphere of doom toward the light pink cotton looped bathroom rug. I gasped, fairly certain that my mother (who was smoking a Pall Mall Gold and paging through a magazine in the kitchen directly below where I was standing) would surely have heard it. After several seconds I carefully placed the brush back in the polish and returned it to the drawer and devised my next step.

Nail Polish Remover is the way to remove nail polish and I had watched my mother use it many times with a cotton ball (located in the tall bottom drawer to the right of the sink). These drawers for my entire life sounded like they needed oiling, it was probably done intentionally as an alarm system in the years before childproofing became a multimillion dollar industry. There I was with access to drain cleaner, bath-oil beads and every form of medication from Children’s aspirin to Rolaids (yep, we used to give aspirin to children) and yet in my mind I was most likely to die as the result of getting into my mother’s nail polish. What my plan had not accounted for is that a single drop of nail polish would discolor an area the size of a saucer if rubbed in a circle vigorously enough by a terrified child. I was certain the smell of the remover would likely linger in the air until my father returned home from work so I sprayed the golden can of Lysol directly onto the counter and used a Kleenex to artistically wipe it like I’d seen ladies do on Pledge commercials that broke up the monotony of As the World Turns and Days of Our Lives.

Now it was time to bring out the big guns! If I was not to touch the nail polish I certainly was not to be “playing with” the cuticle scissors (top drawer to the right of sink) but I knew that I was not “playing” I was like a Mayo Brother performing what for me might be a lifesaving procedure by cutting away the infected wound from the bathroom rug. It had not occurred to me that the circular bald patch would be stained and it was then I realized the rug was terminal. Like a T-shirt with an Orange Crush stain on the front, there was really only one thing to do. I wadded up the rug and tossed it in the hamper. That allowed me to temporarily breathe easier. My recollection of how I disposed of the pink loops from the rug or the used cotton ball have been erased from my memory, I assume it is some sort of Post Traumatic Stress defense mechanism.

Obviously I lived to tell the story and honestly don’t recall any harsh repercussions as a result. I sense that it was evident I had clearly suffered enough. Despite the entire initial episode taking about ten minutes, it is an experience from childhood that I have relived and shared frequently over the years. In retrospect, it might have been best to tell my mother of my initial indiscretion, taken my punishment and let her use her adult wisdom to resolve it. Knowing what I know now, it would have been best to let the polish dry and it likely could have been simply scraped off or removed with a single snip.

This story comes to mind every time I see a hit and run story or other news reports where if a person had simply owned their initial mistake they would prevent so many additional problems that result from following one mistake with multiple more. It was a great lesson to share with my kids at a young age to help prevent them from snowballing a situation that is easily resolvable into something that is irreparable.

I am uncertain if my grandparents ever discovered that their daughter wore knotted pearls and red lipstick to school. I am also not certain why my mother told me the story during my youth. I like to think that while it was not done as a permission slip to disobey that it was rather to let me know that there comes a time when we start to make our own choices and live with the repercussions of them.

Those who know me know that I nearly always wear my nails polished. Many assume that I have them done but actually for over 25 years nobody else has touched my nails. I paint them carefully while watching TV with my husband and I never spill a drop.

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