For some people, complaining about the sorry state of young people never grows old as a topic of conversation. ‘They’re entitled, they are lazy, they expect everything handed to them, they all have inflated ideas of their unique specialness, they’re welded to their phones and don’t know how to interact in person.’
Well, that last one has some truth to it, but most of us older folks are quickly catching up. When we were kids, grown-ups wrung their hands that we were watching way too much television and I’ll bet a few generations before, there was great concern about too much radio listening and I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of hundred years ago, there was fear that reading too many trashy Jane Austen novels would be the undoing of regency youth.
But every once in a while something happens to disprove the popular wisdom. Turns out, not every kid is a spoiled, entitled brat.
A 5-year-old with his own iPad may seem like the absolute epitome of what is wrong with kids today. Especially when that same kid whaps that iPad with his plastic ninja sword for reasons that only make sense to his 5-year-old brain. And of course, he breaks the iPad.
So far, this is exactly the kind of story that reinforces every negative stereotype about contemporary kids. But what happened next may surprise you.
His parents tell him that if he wants his iPad fixed, he’s going to have to pay for it himself. Contrary to all expectation, they are teaching their child personal responsibility. Apparently, it still happens. Who knew?
As the possibilities for income generation are rather limited for someone who hasn’t yet graduated from pre-k, the young fella decided on a strategy of asset liquidation. In other words, he decided to sell off some toys.
Which is where I come into the story. One of his major assets was a model train. A big Imaginarium train built into a table with more than a hundred pieces which I am sure my grandson would love. That’s what I say but the fact is that I always wanted a model train and never had one, so there is that. And here is one practically falling into my lap.
But on the other hand, can I live with myself if I profit from the misery of a child?
Turns out that I can. I bought the train.
Reaction to this child-rearing strategy was interesting. Most comments to the mother tended to congratulate her on taking a firm stand and teaching her child that actions have consequences and that he is responsible for his actions and those consequences.
But there was a strong undercurrent of disbelief, and even disapproval, that she was making the boy sell his toys to pay for the repair. Which is kind of ironic because I’m sure a lot of those disapproving people are the very ones who whine about the state of kids today. Here’s somebody trying to do better and they still catch guff. That was kind of sad.
Meanwhile, it gave me some time to rationalize my plan to take toys from a baby. I made what I thought was a generous offer. How could I not? It’s bad enough I’m buying the thing from him. I’m not going to cheat him on top of that. There’s probably a special place in hell for people who cheat children, as opposed to people like me who only take advantage of their misery.
The young guy’s mother introduced us and he shook my hand. Mom gently suggested to him that it was better if he shook with his right hand. A little small talk ensued. He’s graduating pre-K later in the day. He’s not married. That sort of thing.
Then we talked about the train. He said he didn’t play with it much anymore. (Thank goodness for that.) Now he likes Hot Wheels but he loved the train when he got it a few years back. This is going well. My grandson is about to be 3 so this sounds like an age-appropriate toy and I’m not going to have to pry it loose from this kid’s clutching fingers. Again, that’s good.
Then we talk about the tablet. I’ve been a little concerned that he didn’t understand the nature of his transgression. Little kids have a very peculiar sense of reality and he might have thought the tablet was as indestructible as he most likely thinks he is.
But no, he tells me that he should never have hit it with his ninja sword because he was supposed to be as gentle with the tablet as he would be to a baby puppy. And he’s never going to do it again. The baby puppy thing almost did me in. Then my new young friend threw in a Ninja Turtle. For free. All on his own. He’s generous too.
The train was even better than I thought it would be. It wouldn’t fit in my car. So I came back later with a borrowed SUV and it makes a wonderful coffee table. The Ninja Turtle I kept for myself. It’s in the car. I play with it when I’m stuck in traffic.
So at long last, I have my model train, my grandson has a model train that we can play with together, my new young friend has his tablet fixed by now and his parents have a kid that understands his actions have consequences.
The only losers here are all the old people kvetching about impolite, entitled children. This time, they were wrong.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699 or on Twitter @BillColvard.