One Head Several Hats

On Tuesday, August 20, 2013 I participated in an all day parent/student orientation at my daughter’s school. Admittedly, I am still grappling with the idea that I am a parent to a freshman in high school, already.  Nonetheless, the coordinators of the program wanted the day to be family orientated – and so, a school bus was offered to transport new and returning students and their parents to and from one neutral location in Boston.

 As you can imagine, many students arrived, fashionably, with the latest sneakers, matching hats, and colorful knee-high socks. The atmosphere was overflowing with excitement and nervousness. Many new students kept to themselves while returning students contended for attention. I quietly observed! Initially, I felt overjoyed to know that my daughter would be attending school where the students seemed enthusiastic to be there, but it wasn’t long before my initial impression took a turn, for the worst.

It began when one young lady yelled to another, “Shut the F#@* up.” Although the comment was followed by giggles, it saddened me to hear those words exit the mouth of a young lady who could potentially be my daughter’s peer mentor. Next, when the bus arrived, the students bottlenecked the door, stampeding each other and even the adults. Why, was my initial wondering, but then I remembered how cool it is to sit in the back of the bus – so they fought furiously to claim their seats. One young man wanted so badly to make it to the back row that he was literally climbing up the back of my leg to get by. Of course, I “checked” him, “Young man, relax, the seat isn’t going anywhere.” He quietly responded, “My bad.”

On the bus ride, the profanity was unceasing. I know that this language is common amongst teenagers, especially when in their domain, but what baffled me is the fact that those teenagers/students completely disregarded the presence of adults/parents.

 On that day, I was there to be as a supportive parent and I didn’t want to overstep any boundaries that might place my daughter under attack, by her peers. I strongly wanted to exert my parenting instincts and holler, “Watch your mouths.” My next inclination was to put on my mentor hat and initiate a dialogue about the thousands of reasons why their behaviors were inappropriate and could backfire on them. Finally, I even flirted with the idea of pulling out the inspirational storytelling hat and sharing with them an anecdote about how a young man who, because they were unknown, disregarded the presence of adults around him while on a public train, behaved poorly, and was ultimately denied the opportunity of a lifetime. Instead, I remained quiet and pretended I couldn’t hear them.

For the remainder of that day, I felt like a horrible father, mentor, and adult because instead of putting on one of my helpful hats, I hid behind a veil. I was equally disappointed at my counterparts, but this isn’t about them – it’s about my negligence and me.

Several days later, I am still “in a stink” about my actions, or lack thereof. So I ask of you, parents, what would you have done if you were in attendance? Which hat would you have worn? Students, how would you have reacted if you were present and a parent spoke out against the said behaviors? Would you have appreciated it, or felt violated?

Written By: Edward Walker

One Response to “One Head Several Hats”

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  1. Deborah A. Lancaster says:

    Edward,

    Always a difficult call…..I would not have hesitated to speak up had I been alone without my child on the bus. But, under the circumstances, you probably did what was best for your daughter. Being a 9th grader at a new high school can be daunting. Perhaps, you could contact the METCO program and volunteer your services to come and speak to some of the Boston students who travel out to the suburbs.

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