A few weeks ago, I went to see some friends perform in a musical. Four of them, ranging in age from 8 to 14, were giving their all as Mrs. Darling, Captain Hook, and ensemble members in “Peter Pan.”
As I sat in the theater waiting for the curtain to rise, I thought about how lucky I am to have young people in my life. My own children are grown, but I spend one day a week with my grandson, and at least a few hours a week with members of a creative writing group and a book club I am fortunate enough to facilitate.
Today, I checked out some of my young friends in their 2019 Homeschool Wax Museum Showcase. They dressed in the garb of historical figures of their choice and delivered monologues from their person’s point of view. I gained new appreciation for familiar figures like Mary Shelley, Galileo, Leonardo da Vinci, Houdini, and Charlie Chaplin, and learned about some people I wasn’t familiar with, such as photographers Mathew Brady and William “Snowflake” Bentley, abolitionist Elizabeth Van Lew, journalist Nellie Bly, Olympian Michael Phelps, and suffragette and jiu jitsu master Edith Garrud.
I remember doing similar events when my kids were young, science fairs and short story readings and Time/Space Travelers Fairs where they and their friends crafted presentations on locations new and old, far and near, and I nodded in recognition when one of the Wax Museum’s organizing moms spoke of the ways in which the kids took full ownership of their projects.
This is a wonderful way to be in relationship with young people, supporting them and providing resources when necessary as they take the lead and pursue what excites them. Doing this with my own kids proved rewarding and meaningful, but the connections I forged with other kids were also important. Whether it was leading a creative writing group, getting together with kids to talk about books, helping teens who wanted to work on essay writing, or just getting to know young people at the park or a potluck or a field trip, being around kids of all ages enriched my life.
In a world where age segregation is rampant, people don’t always have opportunities to relate to young people. Even those who work with kids professionally often have to evaluate and grade them, which creates a very different relationship dynamic. The absence of kids and young people from so many public spaces can lead to an intolerance of having them around, and that’s too bad, because they have so much to offer — fresh ideas, electric energy, precious innocence, questions to remind us of the wonder around us. As we age, it’s so easy to forget what it felt like to be a kid and to traverse that passage between childhood and adulthood. Being reminded can feel joyful, bittersweet, and sometimes even painful, but I believe it makes us better people, happier, wiser, more compassionate, with broader perspectives.
I have seen the way adults can be hungry for these kinds of connections. When my son was a teenager he developed friendships with adults in the digital photography, folk music, wildlife, and birding communities he joined. They were eager to invite him on weekend birding excursions, offer him help finding camera equipment (and sometimes give it to him), providing access to folk festivals and other music events. They loved the fact that a young person cared about what they cared about, and they were willing mentors and friends. I found much the same response with my other kids and their pursuits of jazz, politics, psychology, and theater. This doesn’t mean there weren’t naysayers. Every so often they’d run across an adult who resented the presence of a kid in their grown-up world, but they were few and far between.
Homeschooling was a wonderful way for us to seek the intergenerational connections that benefited all of us. For me, finding ways to share what I love with young people was a huge part of that. I am so grateful that I can still do it.