Circumstances beyond my control have led to a new daily assignment for this old man. I have to give my thirteen year old granddaughter a ride home from school each school day. She always has at least one friend who hitches a ride on Grandpa’s wagon. Watching the interaction of eighth grade girls has been a reminder of how we grow as people in a complex world.
Every day I wait in the parental automobile line of responsibility. School buses are loaded to the right, autos are loaded to the left. Every day my granddaughter comes out of the school, chatting with her friends. They meander along, busy with revisiting the day’s social interaction. Sometimes they stop at the passenger door and have to talk for a minute or two before they open the door. I am learning patience, again.
I have been relegated to driver – and drivers are best seen and not heard. The girls chat, and chat, and chat. I think they call each other on their cell phones and talk to each other in the car. I drop the first girl off and twenty seconds later she is calling one of the remaining girls in the car. Chat, chat, chat. That is how it goes. They talk about how other students were dressed, what was said in response to question from the teachers, and other things that I do not quite understand. They speak the language of the future – I speak the language of the past.
The other day there were three girls in my car. I dropped the first off at her house and one of the others in the back seat said, “Well, that was awkward.”
Almost immediately a cell phone rang. “Was that her calling.”
“Yes, but I just hung up.”
“Do you think she will apologize?”
“I don’t care if she does.”
I thought about commenting on kindness and forgiveness and maturity and a number of other things, but then I remembered my role is that of driver, not talker.
The next day the three girls came out of the building, meandering along, laughing and taking, reviewing the day. They got in the car and started texting each other so the ‘driver’ would not be included.
Relax, I told myself. These girls are learning about social regulators. They do not identify their experience in those terms – but they are testing new methods of social interaction and are being shuned or rewarded – they are learning what works in life. They are modifying their behavior based on results – that is what mammals do. Dogs test the boundaries of invisible electric fences – how else will they know what the boundaries are? They have to get shocked a couple of times – then they learn. The teen age girls test the boundaries of social interaction – and they get shocked along the way.
I would love to just tell them what to do – but that is not how life works. It is painful to watch others suffer the consequences of their own chioces, especially my granddaughter. That is how life works.