I dropped my kid off late today and saw an upset student come out of the school followed by a teacher trying to talk to him. By the time I went past, both were standing on the sidewalk, kid was calming, red-eyed and turning back to school.
Probably every teacher has been that teacher, standing in a t-shirt on the sidewalk in 30 degree weather because a kid needs you to be standing there at that moment. Some version of that, of being a trusting and trusted adult, to give compassion in hard times.
I don’t know what was happening in that moment, and don’t really need to, it’s not my business. But it reminded me of a conversation I was having with a friend this week whose own teen was going through some tough times precluded by some bad decisions.
I told her the only thing I know to say: I’ve known like, well over 1,000 teenagers pretty well. No force in the universe can keep them from being total fucking morons. They will ALWAYS do the dumb thing they shouldn’t do, but what they do next is the part we can (kinda) control.
So we have an arm around them. We let them know we can help when they need it and they’re ready. We don’t excuse the bad behavior, but we don’t withhold our compassion because of it. We love them because they need it, because it’s the most powerful thing we can do.
And it is work to love them sometimes, and work to be able to have the space and breath for compassion sometimes. And we don’t always see or celebrate that kind of work that teachers do… the things they do at home, between classes, in the quiet, to have the energy and patience.
Those moments on the sidewalk with the kid who just cannot, the work that makes those moments was done long before that moment, will be done double in the days after that moment. Trust is built slowly and carefully so it is strong enough for the moments that it is needed.