It’s been a rough couple of weeks, or maybe months, in our nation. The news reports tie my stomach in knots most evenings, but its hard to turn them off and take a break since I don’t want to miss anything important. Some mornings I wake up with anxiety over what might be happening in Washington. I’ve gone in and out of positions of not wanting to know and wanting to know, over not wanting to care and wanting to speak out and get involved. It’s been perplexing and curious, interesting and disturbing as I’ve watched the leadership change and evolve, and listened to the public discussion in response.
“What can I do?” “What difference can I make?” seem to be the questions I hear most often from friends and neighbors, as well as the ones I ask myself.
One of my favorite authors is Robert Fulghum who wrote All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. I have been reminded of this lately as I’ve heard folk wondering about who the adults are and where they are since the discussion has displayed some pretty childish rhetoric at times. In fact, I don’t think I really ever heard people talking about “who’s the adult in the room” until recently. Maybe there has been in the past an assumption that adult aged people automatically display adult behavior, meaning mature, rational behavior as opposed to emotional, childish behavior, i.e. wanting my own way, wanting to be first, wanting attention, throwing tantrums, outbursts of frustration, etc.
But, it’s never good to make assumptions and though somewhat threatening, it is a good question that can short-circuit irrational and emotional behavior between adults. It’s a question that reminds me I need to put into practice all I learned in kindergarten, especially since I am usually the most adult person in the room…according to age anyway, and even when I am the only one in the room listening to the nightly news, it doesn’t hurt to practice being a grown up.
So, Ive taken some time to review those lessons from kindergarten:*
- Share Everything
- Play fair
- Don’t hit people or call them rude names
- Clean up your own mess
- Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody
- When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together
- It doesn’t matter who’s first in line, we’re all going to the same place
- Wait your turn and don’t interrupt
- Use your words and your inside-voice
- Take a nap everyday
And, of course, there’s more. (like warm cookies and cold milk are good!) I learned so much in kindergarten!
But I forget…
I raise my voice when I disagree. I call people mean names when they do something I don’t like. I don’t want to apologize when I think you hurt me too. I don’t want to hold your hand when you don’t agree with me and I don’t want to listen to you when I think you’re wrong. It doesn’t matter if we are going to the same place, I still want to be first. And I really don’t want to take a nap and miss out on something!
This, in my view, is what the public discussion has looked like lately: a room full of out of control kindergarten kids.
So where’s the adult?
I’m the adult.
I will be the adult. I will use my inside-voice and will listen to you and wait my turn. I will clean up my own mess and not try to clean up yours as well. I will add to our conversation by behaving like the adult in the room, in whatever room I find myself, public or not so public.
And if I do this, maybe you will too. And if you do this, maybe your friends will too. And maybe my Grandkids will notice and will one day be the adult in the room too, and yours will too. Maybe if I add kindness and respect to the public conversations I have, and you do too, we will be able to “watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together”.
What do you think? What can you add to the public discussion today that will help answer the question “where is the adult in the room”?
*Mostly taken from Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, page 6-7, with some additions and omissions by me.