I recently chaperoned a 4-H trip, and I was pretty nervous about it. I wasn’t nervous about the trip in general, I was nervous about how I would fit in with the other chaperones and about how to be a good chaperone without ruining the trip for my daughter. This trip ended up being a great learning experience for everyone who went, and especially for me.
Kids are exposed to several things nowadays that I am so happy weren’t around when I was young. Facebook and texting are prime examples. I know I have done too many stupid things for which pictures were taken and later ripped up. If today’s devices were around when I was a kid, my adolescent outcome may have turned out significantly differently — and not for the better.
The way kids deal with these things really gives me respect for them. It’s not easy, whether you are popular or not. I hope our community realizes that we have some amazing kids. Some may think they wear too much makeup, act before they think, or find some other imperfection with them, but ultimately they are pretty good. I don’t want us to ever get stuck on all the things kids in today’s society are doing wrong; let’s instead start applauding what we see done right.
I have always been a big believer that kids will turn out exactly how you tell them they will. Tell a kid he’s worthless and he will end up in jail someday. Tell a kid they are loved no matter what and that they are good and you expect great things and the worst that will happen is they will probably turn out average. I have always tried to make a point to never speak badly of my children. Heck, we’ve all made mistakes and it never helps when a parent is sharing those with the world. I’ve always tried to let them know that I expect great things. Now, have I been successful always? Have they? No, people make mistakes, but we try.
On this recent 4-H trip, I spent some time with some teenagers who really touched my life in ways they will never know. I watched these kids be kids, but also take the things they have learned in 4-H and put it into words, pictures and actions. These kids sat in a workshop and learned how random acts of kindness can affect not only one person, but ultimately a society. They learned how putting a smile on someone’s face can change a life. I watched as they made sure everyone participated in the conference and made everyone feel welcome — even me. If it hadn’t been for a group of teenage boys breaking down my wall of shyness, I wouldn’t have shown my real self to the other chaperones on this trip and made some great friends.
I am so glad that I had the privilege of accompanying our kids on this trip. I am so proud that I got to see how these kids are really living what they learn in 4-H and applying it to their everyday lives, whether or not they know it. I hope that we as adults remember to live what we’ve learned and to tell our kids every day how great they are.