Old Children or Young Adults

The clock on my iPhone displayed 4:47pm. I began walking faster. I only had a few blocks ahead of me before turning the corner and reaching the ice rink. Increasing my pace even more, I intensely pumped my arms back and forth like a professional power walker. My black Columbia heat insulation jacket kept my lower back sticky and warm. Jewels of sweat traveled down the sides of my face. I imagined this was the most important race of my life.

But I knew this was not a real race. I turned the corner and saw the rink. Looking back down at my iPhone, I sighed with relief. The clock read 4:50pm. Right on time. I walked through the double doors, feeling even warmer than I had before. All that power walking must have given me a great workout. Every Friday afternoon I head to the Cleveland Circle ice rink to teach skating lessons. This year I became coordinator of the entire session — a big responsibility for a young woman. Ensuring that the program runs smoothly is the easy part. When instructors show up late, I make the decision of whether to penalize them. If students misbehave during classes, I talk to the parents in order to have the situation resolved. And then we have the parents not only watching their kids skate but also carefully examining me.

This particular Friday afternoon I dealt with a few parents right after I entered the rink. A mom approached me to discuss her concern that her son does not feel comfortable in the group that I placed him in last week. Easy solution: I assured her that I would re-evaluate her son’s skills and find him the appropriate group. A grandmother pleaded for my help as her granddaughter refused to put on her skates while also throwing a crying tantrum. Less easy solution: I attempted to calm the little girl with no success. One of my instructors came over and thankfully worked some magic. Within minutes, the little girl had one skate on and some lingering sniffles.

5:00pm — time for the session to start. I reminded the eager kids that the instructors need to get on the ice first. I then reached out and grabbed the hands of students who have never skated before. Some of the more experienced skaters tried to squeeze by so they could head over to the practice area. After 5 minutes of encouragement and patience, the instructors and I safely got all of the kids onto the ice and into groups based on skill-level. As I took attendance and jotted down notes, I noticed an unhappy little boy with his pouted frown and watery eyes. I immediately realized this was the son of the concerned mother. If her son felt unhappy, I knew she would not be happy either. I quickly pulled him aside and gave him some one-on-one attention. Gaining confidence through kind encouragement, the little boy turned that frown into a wide smile. He asked me if he could re-join the group. I proudly watched as he marched away.

About halfway through the session, I noticed a father waving for my attention. As I approached him, I could tell something was bothering him. He explained to me that he felt concerned about one of his daughter’s lack of progress. He blamed the instructors for his daughter’s bad habit of skating with only one foot. His frustration turned into anger as he continued to raise his voice while dropping swear words left and right. He then threatened that he would call the skating school and complain to management. I stood there in complete shock. I wanted to calm him down while also maintaining my own composure. I kindly acknowledged his concerns and offered some solutions. After he directed more angry jabs toward me, I finally decided to employ an interpersonal tactic that I learned in one of my classes. I boldly let him know that I felt like I was being attacked and that the manner in which he was speaking to me was absolutely inappropriate. At that moment he realized all of the wrong that he had done. Guilt appeared on his face. The person that he had treated like a “child” taught him an adult lesson in a very adult-like manner.

Throughout my 20s, I have frequently run into these kind of situations. Older adults seem to view young adults as mere children. Yet, in the law books, 18 years old marks adulthood. At age 21, we can legally consume alcohol. We understand that with these new privileges comes immense responsibility. Like our older adult counterparts, we accept our responsibilities. With that being said, we also expect to be treated and respected like adults. I suspect that the father would not have spoken to a middle-aged woman in the same manner that he had spoken to me. Why is it okay to speak to a young woman in that aggressive, demeaning, and hurtful manner? Would he have wanted a father to speak to his daughters in the same way? My guess would be definitely not. Furthermore, growing up, kids are taught to walk in other people’s shoes. I hope people do not forget this valuable lesson as they grow older. I also remember learning to treat other people in a way that I would want to be treated (thank you Memorial Elementary School).

Yes, this young adult uses children’s lessons to get her through life. Maybe some older adults should too.