I don’t know how to mind my own business. It’s not like I snoop or gossip (much), but when someone needs help I usually offer. When kids are involved, no hesitation.
It’s occupational conditioning. Every day t(w)eens invite me into their business through emails like:
- My best gal friend just broke up with her boyfriend and I wanna ask her out but I don’t know how long I should wait.
- I’m scared that I might be pregnant.
- I go to school everyday wanting to cry in the bathroom and stay there forever.
They ask: “What should I do??” So I tell them what I think. This has been going on for 14 years, so it’s pretty much a habit online and off. But come to think of it, I’ve been this way for much longer than that. It probably started when I was 10 and joined my school’s Safety Patrol. My first day I was assigned to the kindergarten playground and broke up a shoving match between two very upset boys. Somehow I managed to get them to stop crying and start talking to each other. Watching them go play together, I was hooked on helping.
I turned in my silver badge at the end of 5th grade, but my license to butt in never expired. I’ve stepped right in when I witnessed a kid:
- steal an umbrella from a parked car
- mercilessly yank her dog’s leash
- choke his “friend”
- mock another kid
- tell a racist joke
These kids were messing up, they needed help, so I offered a course-correction. I’m not a hero so don’t nominate me. Simple truth, I speak out because I’m afflicted with the “I’m Part of the Village” form of Tourette’s and in these situations I literally cannot keep my mouth shut (ask my husband or our mortified children.) I’m sure a muzzle would help, but I’m not looking for a cure. In fact, I’d like to infect all of you.
Kids out in the world on their own make mistakes and they need correction from adults. When they get that timely feedback, especially from a stranger, it’s a huge wake-up call. Guaranteed, they’re less likely to do it again.
So here’s what I’m proposing… join my Butt In campaign. It comes with a free license to respectfully speak to any kid who needs to hear that what (s)he’s doing right now isn’t OK. If the idea of spontaneous intervention evokes thoughts of: “What other people’s kids do isn’t my business!” I say, I’m not buying it. I mean look where you are. You’re reading Annie Fox’s blog! The only people who show up here take parenting/mentoring very seriously.
Kids growing up right is everyone’s business. Which reminds me, your Butt In license also gives you unlimited rights to toss a smile and a passing compliment to any kid who’s doing something admirable. “Thanks for holding the door.” “Good job helping Mom.” “He’s lucky to have you as a friend.” “What a terrific big sister you are!”
Compliment or course correction, either way, it’s not that hard. And even when it is… think of the good karma points you’re racking up.
OK, Butt-inskys. We’re in this together, right? Good luck! Let’s keep each other posted.