The thing about being a kid is when you’re young; somehow, you think you have everything figured out. You think you know better. You think you have all the angles covered and the detail of your plans is flawless. That is, of course, until you get caught.
The problem with being a kid is the feelings we have are the same as adults. The concerns change as we grow older, but deep down, we’re all just overgrown kids hoping to find our place in the sandbox. We’re all hoping to be the one kid that everyone likes on the playground. And deep down, we all want to be that kid that gets picked first when choosing teams because deep down, no one wants to be that kid that gets picked last.
And me, I was a precocious kid. I was afraid of my own shadow but I could never show it. I had a fear of not fitting in. I had a fear of not being liked and a fear of feeling rejected, awkward, or unnoticed and faceless.
I was advanced in some ways but I was still a kid. I knew I had things inside, but I never knew how to talk about them. I never knew what the world loneliness meant; I only knew that I felt it. I knew I needed help but I never knew how to ask for it. And I knew cheating was wrong, but hell, taking a chance at cheating was better than failing and feeling alone.
I tried to even the odds. I tried to catch an advantage in any way that I could. So yes, I cheated. And no matter how advanced a kid may be, I was never quite able to cover all the angles or settle all the details of my plans.
But this is how it is with kids—or at least this is how it is with kids like the one I used to be. This is how it is with kids that need an edge. This is how it is with kids that for one reason or another, deep down, believe they’re operating at a disadvantage. And me, I did my best to level the playing field. At least, I tried to
I know I’ve told you about this before and I enjoy telling this story when I go out on speaking commitments. I like this story because there is humor to it. Also, I like this story because I feel it not only illustrates the way I felt at a young age; it helps characterize the way I felt when I was a painfully uncomfortable student. As well, this story helps prove my point that as kids, we fail to see the necessary details in life.
Back when I was in grade school, I think I must have been in either the second or third grade, my teacher used to send home note with the student. If a student did something exceptionally well in class, that child was sent home with something the teacher called “A happy note.”
However, when I student did something poorly in class like say, misbehave or fail to do a homework assignment, that child was sent home with what the teacher called, “A sad note.”
The obvious distinction between the two is the face on the note. A happy note was sent home with a smiley face on a piece of paper—generally cut from a bright yellow construction paper to act as a color of happiness and pride.
The sad note was printed with blue ink on white page. There was no pride on these notes. There were a few lines for the teacher to write her report, and above this was a sad face; hence the words, “A sad note.”
The teacher’s rule was as followed: regardless to whether the note was happy or said, any student receiving a note was to bring into class the next day, signed by a parent. Upon my attendance (if my memory serves me correctly) at best, I received and returned a signed happy note maybe two or three times. However, and unfortunately, throughout my time in this class, I received countless sad notes; none of which were ever taken home to show my parents and certainly none of the sad notes were ever returned signed to my teacher.
This made my teacher angry.
Given one last opportunity, my teacher ordered me to bring a sad note home to have it signed by my mother and I was to return it the next day. Looking down at my from above the top rim of her eyeglasses, the teacher gave me a horrible scowl. She was old. She was unattractive and she wore old brown orthopedic shoes. There was nothing warm or kind about this teacher. To me, she was frightening. To me she was ugly and old with curled, hooked arthritic fingers, a set of cold blue eyes, and yellow teeth that lined her mouth which reeked from the stale coffee she drank in the teacher’s lounge.
“This is your last chance,” said the teacher
“Do you hear me young man?”
Of course I answered, “Yes.”
I agreed to the teacher’s demands; however, she knew that I would not bring the note home. She knew I would not bring the note back the next day, signed by one of my parents, and with contempt, the teacher looked upon me the same way a judge would look at a repeat offender, continually arrested, and dragged in the same courtroom.
“You better,” warned the old bag.
I hated this teacher. I hated her most when she placed the sad note with a detailed report in an envelope and dragged her pink, pasty tongue from one side of the glue to the other. Then the teacher sealed the envelope.
Marching me over to the desk, the teacher grabbed her stapler and she then stapled the said envelope to my shirt. Can you believe that?
“Now you’ll have to show your parents,” growled the teacher.
“I stapled it to your shirt!”
Of course, I walked around with the note stapled to my shirt for a while. I took a few jokes at my expense from the other students on the bus ride home because they made fun of me. They said things like, “Oooh, you’re in trouble,” and they laughed their mean, kid-like laughs at my expense,.
But no sooner did my feet touch the ground as soon as I stepped off the bus away from prying eyes; I grabbed the note and ripped it from my shirt. And of course, I arrived in class without the sad note. And of course the teacher asked for it. And of course, I made up an excuse.
Can you believe it?
The teacher write another one and with a final warning, she explained, “If you do not bring this back tomorrow signed, I will call your mother in for a parent conference.
In truth, I was afraid of my teacher. She was mean and I didn’t like her at all. However, in fairness, I was more afraid of my Old Man than my teacher. Bad notes sent home from school were never a good thing. The Old Man was strict. He’d have spanked me for sure. There was no way I could have my parents see this note. Besides, the note was long and it had been written in script. It was penned in adult language, which means I was too young to understand the big words. No matter what, I had to come up with a new plan. I had to come up with a new idea; one in which would save my hide and keep the old bag of a teacher off my back.
And then it came to me. “Eureka!”
In my young mind, somehow, I came up with an invention which I was sure no one would has ever thought of before. I was genius. Deep down, I knew I was onto something big.
“I’ll just sign it myself,” I said while sitting at my desk in my bedroom and trying to solve the problem. And was here that I swore I invented forgery. It was simple too. My mother’s initials were A.K. and she would sign everything with those initials and surrounded it in a fancy circle.
“I could do that,” I swore to myself
Next day, it was show time. I walked into class and strolled over to my desk. I sat with a defying look of confidence. There was no way this teacher was going to beat me. I had her fooled. I was certain of it!
“You man, do you have your note for me?”
I didn’t speak.
No, I just stood up with a leaned back vibe, as if I were convict about to walk on a serious murder rap.
I walked up to the teacher as she sat behind her desk—her old liver-spotted hand reaching towards me, openhanded, and waiting for me to deliver the mail in which I was told to deliver. Instead, I tossed the sad note on the desk and with a look of defiance, I swore at the teacher. “Here’s your freakin note!”
And as I walked away, I could hear the teacher’s deep inhale that came with a sound of anger and disgust.
“Young man, you get back here this instant!”
I turned around to face her without any loss of confidence.
“Your mother did NOT sign this note!”
“Yes she did,” I argued. “See? Those are her initials right there, A.K.”
The teacher blasted back at me, “In blue crayon?!”
And without losing stride, I responded, “That’s because she didn’t have a pen.”
Needless to say my plan failed.
I had the right idea with the wrong execution
But that’s the problem with being a kid. You fail to see the angles. The problem is you think you know it all. And you do—until you find out you don’t. You get caught. You get punished and you find yourself in a bad rap with your parents, teachers, or even worse, you find yourself in trouble with the law.
Stupid kids . . .
Take the first time we were ever caught smoking cigarettes for example. And by “We,” I mean me and two of my young, knucklehead friends.
Someone learned we could also smoke tea leaves too. And so here was the plan. We were to have a sleep-over and together we were to try both of these things. At the time, maybe I was in fourth grade but it could have been the fifth. And as planned we had a sleep over in my friend’s basement.
We began with a friendly smoke. Of course, we coughed and none of us inhaled. We were just trying to be cool. You know>
We were trying to be big shots.
After we passed the first smoke around, we went on to the hard stuff. We moved up to the tea leaves. We heard it smelled like weed. And by weed, I don’t mean lawn clippings. I mean the kind of weed the older kids smoked.
Meanwhile, we never considered that no one else smoked in the house. We never considered that smoke rises and that when tea leaves are rolled up (or at least attempted to be rolled up) and smoked, this gives off a strong familiar pot-like smell.
Somewhere in our minds, we thought we knew what we were doing. We thought we would never be caught. How could we get caught?
We figured out the details and covered all the angles. Who would catch us. My friend’s mother caught us; that’s who. She smelled the smoke coming up from the basement and opened the door to the closet beneath the basement steps, and there we were, three little delinquents, caught red-handed.
The trouble with being a kid is we thought we knew it all. We thought we were smarter than our parents. We thought we knew better than the grownups and we certainly knew better than the teachers at school. That is, or course, until we found out we didn’t.
One of the reasons why I want to work with kids is because I understand this. However, working with kids poses a problem because to a kid; I’m nothing more than an old man and what the hell does an old man know, right?
Recently, I learned the about our brain’s frontal lobe. this is where our decision making ability is. Also, I learned this part of the brain does not fully mature until we reach the age of 26. (No wonder why I was always caught)
Maybe I can help adults. I’ve considered that maybe I can help parents but interestingly enough; adults and parents both suffer from the same problem kids. Adults and parents know it all. They know everything because they’ve seen it and done it all. They’ve been there before many times. “No kid will ever outsmart me,” says the grownup. That is of course, until they find themselves outsmarted and beaten at their own game
Somehow, the two need to meet in the middle. Instead of claiming to know it all, maybe it would be beneficial if both adults and kids simply learned how to talk more with each other. We need to learn more instead of show off about how much we know.
Besides, who the hell wants to speak to a know-it-all?
As a kid, I know I didn’t.
Come to think of it, now that I’m an adult, I still don’t like speaking with a know-it-all.
Do you like it?
I didn’t think you did