We live on a street that is a direct route to and from the middle school around the corner for a whole lot of kids. If I’m home at dismissal time in the afternoon, which I often am, I get to witness epic brain fails that validate the research showing that teen brains are lacking in some important connections.
Last spring a pack of loud, rowdy boys walked past our yard while I was out front working in a flower bed. As they came toward me (not noticing that I was there), one of them stopped and hurled a flip flop toward our house, where it landed on the roof. He and his friends saw me and stopped in their tracks.
Me (trying not to laugh): Hi, there! Wow, that was pretty stupid, wasn’t it?
Shoe-throwing boy (sheepishly): Uh, yeah, I guess it was.
Me: So is somebody going around with one shoe now?
Shoe-throwing boy (looking at the ground): No, he was wearing other shoes. I took that one from his backpack. Do you have a ladder so I can climb up there and get it?
Me: I have a ladder, but I can’t let you get the shoe. If you got hurt it would be my responsibility.
Shoe-throwing boy: I could do it! It would only take a minute!
Me: Sorry, no way. But I have a son who occasionally does stupid things, too, so I’m not too upset, as long as you don’t do it again. When my son comes home I’ll have him go up there and get it. We’ll leave it on our porch for you and you can come back for it and return it to its owner.
Shoe-throwing boy: Okay, I guess.
He and his friends reluctantly moved on. The Boy got the shoe down when he got home (loving an excuse to climb up to the roof, monkey-child that he is), we put it on the porch, and it was gone by the next morning.
Another interesting scene I witnessed last year:
Some doofus had kyped a grocery cart from the nearby Hy Vee and left it up the street from our house. Before we could get someone from the store to retrieve the cart, a herd of boys came by. One of them hopped into the basket and had his buddies push him down the hill at top speed. When they got to our house, the cart hit a bump in the sidewalk and the kid went flying. I rushed out to offer first aid for his scraped-up knee.
Me: Wow, that was pretty stupid, wasn’t it? (This is my standard opening line with middle schoolers. It tends to be appropriate.)
Grocery cart kid: Yeah, definitely. I wish I hadn’t done that.
Me: I’ll bet. Want some Bandaids?
Grocery cart kid: No, I’m all right. Thanks for checking, though.
Good kid. But stupid.
They just can’t help it. Their brains just aren’t quite done yet. Sort of like cookie dough…really good in their own way, but not actually cookies until they’re fully baked.
I remember watching Oldest Sister, when she was a junior in high school (honors student, 4.85 GPA) take a box of cereal out of the cabinet, turn it upside down to look at something printed on the bottom, and open the box top, which was pointing downward. Gravity ensued, and Cheerios poured onto the floor.
Stupid. But lovable. And infinitely amusing. Boy, do I miss having our own teens-in-residence to keep me laughing.