Visiting my kids’ grandma in Florida is a cultural experience. She lives in a mature adult community, as many in Florida do. The streets are orderly, and no one draws on the sidewalk. I find the range of reactions to kids here pretty interesting.
There are the people who think that anyone younger than eighteen is
a) a baby
c) someone whose physical space they can intrude anytime
My kids hate these people, of course. I can see it almost immediately that they can sense the vibes. The person comes up to them and addresses them in a too-loud, babyspeak voice, and I see the kids start to shrink away. In fact, I remember this from my childhood, especially the adults (always men) who thought it was fun to tickle a girl till she cried.
Then there are the scowlers. These are the adults who came to an adult community to get away from noisy, uncontrollable, boisterous, ill-behaved humans. Unfortunately for them, kids don’t own the market in that set of behaviors, but at least there are fewer of them in an adult community.
The scowlers are sort of like those people who don’t like cats and think that if they ignore the cat, the cat will just go away. My cats, unfortunately for those people, are always fascinated by people who ignore them. As soon as there’s someone in the room pretending they aren’t there, the cat jumps on their lap.
That approach doesn’t work with kids, either. So the scowlers usually just glower at the kids. Occasionally, they get a bit more verbal. We’ve had people swear at our kids, lecture them, and tell them they aren’t welcome. Well, unfortunately, we’re here to visit grandma, and we aren’t going away!
Finally, there are the people who are thrilled to see youth around them. They’ve moved to an adult community for the services, the social life, and the warm pools, not to get away from the full variety of life.
It’s heartening to see these people not only enjoying watching our kids be kids, but inspiring them to be wonderfully behaved, polite kids. Because the intrusive people and the scowlers don’t get it that kids sense their attitudes just like cats do. There’s no easier way to get kids to misbehave than to expect them to misbehave.
These older adults who bring out the best in our kids remind me that kids respond so well to being addressed respectfully, getting looked in the eye, and being listened to. They show genuine interest in kids’ interests and ideas. And in return, the kids usually offer back the best of themselves.