In an effort to keep my cool and be an example of a good driver for my sons, I try not to respond emotionally when some blockhead zooms around me, cuts back in front of me, barely missing my front fender, and then slams on his brakes at a stoplight. For all his ridiculous driving and risking of lives, including ours, he arrived at the intersection 16 feet ahead of me. This is when the teacher in me states to my boys, “And that man probably took cuts in line as a kid and nobody stopped him.”
This ‘me first’ attitude is way too common in our culture today. I like to stir things up a bit. When road construction dictates that lanes merge, I try to space myself so that, going slowly, a couple of vehicles can merge in front of me and keep everybody moving. But, there are those whose lives and schedules are evidently, infinitely more important than everyone else’s. They race forward, ignoring all of us benevolent drivers willing to let them in, and then cut in at the last moment, bringing our slow but steady progress to a screeching halt as everyone slams on their brakes. Those are the guys that were bullies as kids, probably even stole other kids’ lunches, just because.
I must admit, there is some kind of secret satisfaction when some crazy has gone by me on the freeway doing 90ish and I see him miles down the road getting a little ‘love note’ from a state trooper. At that speed, hitting one car on the road would invariably involve a chain reaction and involve multiple cars. Probably not something that crossed that speedster’s mind.
In the classroom, I try to use little examples to demonstrate these ‘big concepts’ to kids. Try and figure out what sense it makes, or doesn’t, that the kids who shove and push and cut their way to the front of the line to get outside for recess are the same ones who shove and push and cut their way to the front of the line to go inside. I stopped a little guy one day who had scrambled ahead of others out the door for recess and was now trying to muscle and hustle his way to the front of the line to go in. I took him aside, reminded him that we were all headed back to the classroom, to do the same thing, math, and nobody would be starting anything until we were all in the room. So I asked him what he thought would be worth shoving his way to the front. He suddenly realized that he was rushing back to a classroom to do work. He quietly turned and was satisfied to be at the back of the line.
Is it the pack running or driving by us that makes us somehow think that being at the front is the goal? Don’t get me wrong. I understand healthy competition. I have boys in sports. But sometimes it’s not about ‘winning’ a race as must as it is ‘finishing’. Teach your children to recognize the difference and they’ll develop into well-adjust adults that know how to ‘merge into their own space’ without hurting others.