If it takes a whole village to raise a child, then we have a lot of responsibility in Lake Highlands. But it is the caring, involved nature of our community that motivates so many volunteers to step in and tutor students, coach athletic teams, lead scouting groups and help care for children in after-school programs. We choose our roles as volunteers and get a lot of satisfaction out of doing so.
Sometimes, we find ourselves in roles we haven’t exactly chosen, as I did a few weeks ago when I picked up my daughter from her soccer practice.
It was that last warm day before the ice storm hit, and the beautifully renovated White Rock Elementary playground was full of kids and adults enjoying the last bit of daylight. I pulled into the back parking lot and noticed some neighborhood moms sitting at a picnic table.
And then I heard a loud fight start. Although a large parked van blocked my view, the cursing and threats were loud and clear. I pulled my car up in time to see a fight among four junior high boys igniting like a flash-fire. But what really caught my eye was that one boy was beating another boy’s head against the concrete.
The mother/parent/adult mode kicked into automatic pilot as I rolled the window down and yelled at them to stop. That got them to look up for a second, which gave me time to park and in quick order inform them that head slamming could cause serious head injury and that I wanted to know what school they attended.
That got their attention, as did the words of one of my friends as she made it clear they were not welcome at the school playground if they were going to fight. She also vowed to call the mother of the one boy she recognized.
Three of the kids looked relieved that adults had intervened. They were able to save face and saunter away. The main perpetrator had a vacuous, defiant look that is sad and scary to see in a young person so full of explosive anger.
Certainly it is not always smart to try and break up a fight. But what is smart is not necessarily what is right.
I think no one has a right to come to a community park that so many people worked so hard to create, and pollute the atmosphere with cursing and fighting. No one has a right to come take over the basketball court or the parking lot or the playground from the younger children the park serves.
And I think every adult in Lake Highlands has the responsibility to tell any kid that threatening behavior, whether it is physical or verbal, is not okay with the community.
It’s a lot easier to stop a small problem than a big one; easier to get a 13-year-old to back down than a 16-year-old. It is not pleasant to deal with someone else’s offspring, but often we must. If we can’t deal with a situation directly, we may need to call a teacher or a school principal or even the police.
But we can’t drop the ball or say we don’t care.
Our community shows it cares every day. But part of caring is setting limits and saying no. Part of being an adult is doing what is difficult. And part of being a kid is counting on adults to put the brakes on impulsive behavior.
Who knows if those boys at the park were really rough or just showing off? I don’t know. Maybe they were all friends again the next day.
I only know what I see.
And if it’s someone getting their head smashed, I plan to try and stop it – at least as long as I’m half-an-inch taller.