I rag on children a lot. It’s just what I do. All the time. I don’t make fun of children because I don’t like them. I rag on everyone. All the time. It’s what I do. Sarcasm is my schtick. Once people realize it’s my schtick, they tend to look past the obvious outer “asshole” layer of me and see the inner “vast wealth of superhuman charm” center that really makes up who I am (*although I don’t do it to my sister so much anymore because she is with child and the hormones have taken away her ability to take a goddamn joke*).
The reason it seems like in life, or on this blog, that children take most of the ridicule I hand out is because 1) you’re not really paying attention. Most of the ridicule I dish out I direct to none other than myself, and 2) I work with children. I spend most of my time with them more than quite a lot of other people in my life, ergo I mention them a bunch. And since I never learned how to turn off my life filter, the kids will have to learn to suck up my smart-ass ways or cry trying. Hasn’t happened yet, but I’m pretty sure when the day comes that I sass some tears out of a ten-year old, threat of taking away my paychecks will help me figure out the ‘life filter’ thing.
The truth is though that I actually do enjoy working with kids, even when they are annoying, bratty, or just straight piss me off (*which is a tricky minefield sometimes*). I’ve had really great experiences working with kids. When they learn something because I explained it to them, probably twelve times, it makes me feel all ‘ABC Family Movie Event’ on the inside. If only I could get paid like a human being for doing so, I’d work with kids till the pension checks started flowing in.
I can be more myself when working with kids than when I work with adults. When one of the kids says something silly, but completely harmless, I can respond with just as much silliness in my voice because I am a silly fucking man. When one of the kids gives me attitude for God knows what, I can give them attitude back because they are not adults who get upset and stabby if I use a stern inflection in my voice. When I’m working with adults, I have to be an adult too. I can do it, but it’s a lot like painting a house. Even though I can do it, I just really don’t want to and I have to put a lot of concentration into not mucking the whole thing up, so that when people look at what’s going on they won’t stop and think to themselves, “Man. The person responsible for that has no idea what they are doing, do they?”
But I can’t trust those kids with everything about me because, well, they are children. Some things they just shouldn’t have to be subjected to. I am a man, and as such, there are some irrefutable man things that I am, or do, that children have no business being a part of, especially the children that I see on a professional basis where I have somehow been incorporated as an integral part of their growing process.
I can make sure that there are aspects of myself that children don’t see at work. That’s fine. I got that shit on lock down! But the issue isn’t what they get exposed to from me when we are at work, where I am at my most vigilant. The issue is when they see me literally anywhere else.
I’m not on ‘High Alert!’ when I’m at a restaurant, or when I’m at Target or any other place, especially when I’m with friends, which I usually am. I consort with morons. I do this on purpose because I am moron. Traveling in groups makes sense. But I don’t act like a moron when I’m at work. I have to set an example for the young’uns because, well, I’m an adult. If I act like myself at work, I’m just going to make my work life harder.
Kids have always liked me. I’m a male adult who isn’t their dad, therefore, they don’t have to take me nearly as seriously as they would their fathers. I get that, but that also means I have to work hard to make sure that they have to listen and somewhat respect me, hence the facade of maturity at work.
But God help me if they see me with my kind (*morons*) in our natural habitat (*the movies, the grocery store, any and every restaurant that serves booze*). They see me being me, and all the work that I’ve done to look like an adult goes the way of the Bro who is having too good a time at ‘nickel beer’ night. Those kids will only see the fucking moron they saw in the real world. From that point on, that’s the only person they will want to associate with. Only educators can understand why a child seeing you with a beer and friends is fucking horrifying.
Work will never be easy again.
The kids won’t listen to you. They have all the dumb little kid things in the world to say, and they will fight you to make sure you hear them because they know now that you love dumb things too. You are on the same level now. They know it, and they have boundless energy. Eventually, you will damn well hear what they have to say.
Gets worse as the kids get older. They want to relate on different things. Most it gets kinda annoying and sad. They want to talk movies and stuff that, frankly, they are far too young to be watching. I’m no prude, but I don’t want to talk to a fucking ten year old about what my favorite part of “The Hangover 2” is. They seem to think that by relating with things that they know they should not be involved with makes us even more so on a level of equals, and that just makes me uncomfortable. It’s like the woman at the bar, easily in her late forties, early to mid fifties. She reeks of bourbon and wears the revealing, annoyingly bedazzled or whatever the fuck jeans and blouses that a fit twenty-year old girl would wear, and talks like she was indeed at the age her clothes are were begging us to believe she was… but completely ass backwards. The only thing that remains truly the same is that I feel awkward and don’t want to talk to these people anymore.
But I have to. They are the future. And I’m kinda in charge of that.
But it makes my plight that much worse. When they know I’ve been drinking, or swearing or some other damn thing, they want me to think they are cool by trying to show me that they know what the hell I’m up too. But I’m not up to validating their push to grow-up faster than nature intends. I’ve seen how that blows up in people’s faces and don’t want to be responsible in any way for potentially fucking up one of these kids.
But mostly, I don’t want to have to deal with them at work when they get annoying and stuff. There are incidents abound where they get the ammo to try and yell at me that they know everything I do about the world, and want me to confirm their thoughts.
I get of work early on Thursday. I like to go to random stores and just look around. I like fooling myself into thinking I have money and can buy a twenty pound dumbbell, the new James Bond movie on DVD, or a Blu-ray player so that people will stop scoffing at me when I tell them I only own DVD’s.
So this one fateful Thursday, I was at the pit of agony and despair (*Wal-Mart*) making my rounds. I imagined myself riding the bike I can’t afford to work instead of driving and spending so much on gas. I imagined using the tennis racket I wasn’t buying as an excuse to learn the rules of tennis so I could start playing so that buying the racket wouldn’t of been a waste of money and effort.
Eventually, I landed in the section that I always inevitably end up in, the movies. I have a bit of a collection to my name, and I enjoy adding to it anytime I can. So I am strolling slowly, looking through movies, comparing prices to films I already own and wondering if I overpaid , when I came upon a film that had just been released: Magic Mike.
I had heard about this movie. I had heard about the premise long before the movie came out. The guy from a bunch of movies I haven’t seen is in a movie directed by a guy whose work I really enjoy, in which the dude whose face I’m supposed to know is a male stripper. I thought that sounded silly. Then the movie came out I heard is that the movie is actually kinda crazy good. Actually, all I heard is that the movie was crazy good! Not only that, but that Wooderson was also in the movie and that he was awesome too.
And now, it sits here in front of me. The front cover of the movie is nothing but pecks decorated with neck ties. Again, silly. No matter. I was half invested in investing in this flick. I pick up a copy and flip it to my left to read the back. I don’t flip DVD case all the way around. The front of the DVD is blazing out to my left. I didn’t think anything of it as I was reading the description of the movie on the back. I should have realized that would be my undoing. I was halfway through the summary on the back when, almost like a bomb going off, I heard it.
“Hi Mr. Iba… uh…” My name wasn’t even finished being uttered. I could hear shock and confusion set it.
My blood stopped moving.
I knew it. Everything. I recognized the voice. I knew it was one of my students. I knew exactly which one it was too. I could picture the look on her face when I look over to her. I could even picture the look on my dumb face. A look that screamed, “FUCK! I BEEN CAUGHT!!” despite the fact that I had done nothing wrong. I knew that no matter how hard I tried, I was going to look over to see the face I knew I was going to see, and that there was nothing I could do to stop from making that stupid fucking face.
Everything. I could see everything. The looks on the faces. The awkward walking away. Her texting her friends about me and the movie I was so engaged in reading about and what the front cover looked like. The quiet pondering to myself as to how bad the situation is, and the mad rush of tweens¹ who were going to rush me in the morning, all yelling, thinking that they have possibly made their first gay best friend.
I hate that scenario. Not because I’m afraid of eleven year old girls thinking I’m gay. For one thing, the opinions slated for me, positive or negative, as formulated by eleven year-old people is truly no skin off my nose. I couldn’t give two toad turds about what children think of me as a person. For another, I’m not gay. Many people in my past, people whom I consider close friends, have thought that I was a gay man. Somehow or another, I managed to proved to them that I wasn’t (*it was more fun to show some just how not gay I was, wink wink²*), but even when my raging heterosexuality wasn’t as forward presenting as it could be, I didn’t care because I knew it what the truth was. What did I care if adults, friends, my parents apparently all thought I was gay when I knew I wasn’t. Given that, why in the holy christ would I care when eleven year old girls thought it?
But goddamn if they weren’t going to mob me and insist to know what life as a gay man is like. That is the fucking bit I want nothing to do with. Kids trying to dig into my private life. Parts that are supposed to be very private, and thanks to some bad timing and youthful imagination, very made up.
So, I stood there, movie in my hand, imagining everything. There was a very distinct “I just walked in on my parents having sex” feeling floating in the air. I looked to my left and saw her. The exact student that I knew it was. Her eyes were shifting between making eye contact with me and the front cover of the DVD case, which I never stopped aiming at her for some reason. She just stood awkwardly for a bit, waiting for me to do something.
So eventually realized she was going to have to make the first move. She chose to turn around and walk away, yelling “See you later!” in a direction that I was not in.
From that point, it all fell into place, exactly like I thought. The wishing and hoping, the underage mob, the fending off, all of it. Only for a day or two, mercifully. The verge-of-pubescent mind is awful fickle, but it is savage. For two days, I was popular, and I was mortified.
As an adult in education, I have to be vigilant in not only protecting the students, but protecting myself. There have been a lot of lines crossed between educators and educatees (*educatites? educationers? educatosaurs?*). The absolute last thing I ever want is to be associated with anyone of those awful people. Problem is that not everyone sees all the gray that comes along with actually having to deal with ten to twelve year old’s all day, everyday. They are growing up. I’m a grown-up, least they think so. As far as a bunch of them are concerned, I’m someone that can start to relate too, and perhaps I could be their segue to older, more mature relationships with people.
But I can’t be that. I know that. They’re parents know that. They don’t. I have to drop the hammer and nix that shit whenever it pops it’s dopey little head up in these kids mind’s. When I do do that, I am protecting myself, and really, the kids too, but I can see it. I start to grow the seeds of resentment in them. Seeds that will grow fast and do nothing but obstruct my view of an easy day. If the kids don’t feel like they can trust me, they are going to fight me on whatever I ask them to do. I’m making my day harder for myself by keeping everyone at arms distance away, like I’m supposed too. Like I want too. Not much for developing the trust of the youth, unfortunately.
Sorry kids. One day you’ll realize that you respect me much more being a dick than you would if you realized I was just as immature as all of you.
Goddamn you, Channing Tatum³.
¹Ugh. “Tweens” That’s awful. My mouth feels dumb just saying it.
²I’m talking about the ladies with whom I’ve sexed, thus proving my heterosexuality. Do you get it now? The “wink wink” part? Eh?
³I looked up his name. Seriously, dude. Goddamn you, you magnificent bastard.