also I think it’s important we realize that being nice to children needs to also apply into their teenage years.

when I was 17, five months after my dad had died in a house fire and I lost my home and we nearly ended up homeless, I was lucky enough to go on a school trip to the bahamas to study the reefs. This was my Ultimate Dream, as an aspiring marine biologist, and I couldn’t believe it was coming true. It was the only good thing to happen to me since the fire, the only thing I’d genuinely looked forward to.

But I had ADHD and could be too loud (by then I was good at not talking out in class so I was only loud when we were ALLOWED to be) and a little whacky. My humor was “weird,” I had asthma, and to top it off, I wasn’t pretty.

When we got there, the outpost where we were staying was run by college students, probably getting their graduate degrees, all aged about 22-26. And they saw us all as their age, even though some of them nearly had a decade on us.

And since they saw us as peers rather than children, they felt comfortable making judgements about us, and they decided I was weird and annoying.

And they were mean to me. They made fun of me, deliberately made me feel excluded and odd in front of each other and my own peers, and sometimes when I’d say something in class they’d make a face, say “Ohhhkaaaayyyy,” and look at each other knowingly while they pretended they were even trying to hold back laughing at me. They avoided calling on me during classes, didn’t want me participating, and generally made it obvious how annoying I was to them.

I even noticed that another person in my class was just as weird, if not more, than I was, but she was gorgeous. And to people looking at us as adults instead of children, that mattered.

And it ruined everything.

Another adult on the trip started paying attention and thinking perhaps there was a reason the people in charge didn’t like me. After all, what kind of adult is mean to a kid for no reason? So one night at a festival when she saw me take apart my inhaler, she misunderstood what it was and told the teacher in charge of our trip she’d seen me using drugs. I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere alone for the rest of the trip, not even the bathroom at the airport, despite my friends and a few other peers defending me.

I was mortified and ashamed and ended up lying there in bed every night, wondering how something I’d looked forward to so much could end up so terrible. I wanted nothing more as a child than to be good and win adult approval, and somehow I’d made all the adults there dislike me. I thought it was my fault.

I’d love to see all of these people again now, as an adult myself, and tell them what I was going through.

Tell them, “did you know, when you made fun of me all week back then, when you made me feel untrustworthy and called me a liar, I was grieving the loss of my father. I went away to try to stop thinking about him and the fire and losing my home and everything else, just for a week, and you stole that from me? You ruined that for me?”

Be. Fucking. Nice. To. Children.

Okay this is so important though. As much as they may act like adults and want to be treated like adults, high schoolers are still developing and maturing and it is So. Very. Important. To be kind and supportive of them. If you’re in your 20’s, a high schooler is no more your peer than the 10 year old next door is. They will expect to be (and should be) treated differently than a 10 year old, but you are still a role model/support system to them.

About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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