I remember being 13. Hormones were raging, emotions were all over the place and I thought I knew everything. It was not a happy time. Then again, is it for any kid?
As crazy as your emotions are at 13 years young, you still feel all your power is growing strong and you know and can do anything. You are invincible and no one can tell you what to do. Your parents and teachers have taught you enough to make you realize you have your rights, but they can't always rein you in enough to keep you out of the trouble you get into using those very rights without enough maturity to pick the reasonable rather than the unreasonable paths.
When I was a kid, and then a teacher, and then a parent, the words "teenager" and "adolescent" were negatives. I don't think they are quite as negative now as the word "juvenile" is, but it's easy to use those words when kids create problems for society.
It's been said down through history that kids get worse with each succeeding generation and the elders of any generation say, "tisk-tisk," and, "What can we do?"
As a grandparent, my generation is blaming adolescent bad behavior on lack of parental discipline. These parents are the ones we raised, and yet the wild, destructive behavior does seem to be getting worse. There seems to be a rampant lack of respect for anything created to make life in this world safe and beautiful for all citizens.
Last week we had what we would consider a peak occurrence at our Hilltop Community Center skate park. Almost daily we have youngsters by the dozens taking advantage of this new facility, but it seems that the very daredevil nature of conquering and perfecting skate boarding supports all the raging convictions that these kids have that they are invincible and above the law.
Look what they can do - up and down off of ledges and down onto steep ramps, all with their feet glued to a board on wheels. Who wouldn't feel powerful with those skills?
Unfortunately, one of these young skate boarders brought his dog to the park, but not on a leash as required by law, and the dog ran after and barked at a runner on the Nature path. The runner allegedly turned and stomped his foot at the dog to get him to stop, and the dog owner, a boy of 13, confronted the runner and demanded to know if the runner had kicked the teen's dog. Mr. Runner explained to the boy that he did not kick the dog, but he did stomp at him to get him to stop barking.
Before the confrontation could either end or go any further, a friend of the dog owner, also a boy of 13, rushed up to the runner with a barrage of bad language and threats to harm the runner. One of the Hilltop maintenance staff was called for help and when he got there, the boy was still at it with all the anger and vehemence he could muster. He was then told to stop the bad language and to leave the premises if he couldn't behave any better than that when it wasn't even his problem to begin with.
The rebellious teen said that nothing could be done to him and he didn't have to listen to the voice of authority that day in the park. As he started to return to the skate park, the Hilltop employee took the skateboard from the boy and told him he would get it back from the policemen he was calling. The employee then walked toward his office with the skateboard to call the authorities.
The boy was incensed by this action, picking up a rock as he followed the employee, threatening to hit him in the head with it. He was warned it might not be a good idea as the employee and the skateboard disappeared into the maintenance office. As soon as the office door was closed, the boy did lob the rock at the office door window in an attempt to break it. With the foresight from many years of comparable behavior, that window was replaced with Plexi-glass long ago and it refused to yield to the force of the rock.
The authorities and I, as the manager, were called and we arrived almost at the same time as the mother of the volatile kid. We all piled into the maintenance office to remove some of the confrontation from the public, but it did not silence our young bull at all. His mother tried to silence him and to remind him this is not the way to behave or talk in public. His retort was that she was helping all these adults to ruin his life.
The officers were not new to this kind of behavior, and they had all the words and warnings necessary to finally calm him down enough to talk to him. The boy never really stopped his complaints that he could not be treated that way, and that he had his rights. Unfortunately, what he learned was that he had given up his rights when he confronted the runner, and began his barrage of bad language, not to mention throwing the rock.
He was told that no one, child or adult, has the right to use such language in public. It was a misdemeanor subject to arrest if the officers considered it bad enough.
Since this was the first time the boy had had a run-in with the law, he was given a warning, plus the instructions to never step onto the park property again. If he does, he was told he would be arrested and taken to the juvenile facility.
Both the county and the city have provided as many recreational facilities and opportunities for youngsters as their respective budgets can handle, and both are dealing with this insolent, destructive behavior from the very population they are serving.
The Hilltop staff is employed to keep the grounds mowed and the buildings clean, but it has become a new and frustrating chore to try to stop the bad behaviors in the park. We have no problem with calling in the law at the least sign of trouble, because the youngsters today know that little can be done except by the law to control their behavior.
I marvel at the parents who bring their younger kids to the skate park after school and leave them there to skateboard among the bigger kids. It ought to be safe enough for them, right? I think the only time that skate park is safe is when there is an adult there to observe their behavior and even then, because of the very nature of the sport, it's not always safe.
The Hilltop Nature Park and the skate park were built for our residents to enjoy fresh air, beauty and a place to exercise and have fun. No one has the right to take that away from the general population. The park rules, plainly displayed at Hilltop, are that there are to be no bicycles, scooters, roller skates, in-line skates, or any other wheeled equipment on the Nature Path. It is strictly for walking or running without the fear of being run over by the wheeled equipment. No dogs are to be on any of the park grounds without a leash. Period. Being chased or attacked by a dog while you are trying to enjoy the park is subject to impoundment of the dog along with consequences for the owner.
Why is it so necessary today to deal with these inconsiderate, often destructive, elements on a daily basis? Does public property have an invisible sign on it saying, "Destroy me as soon as possible?" or, "You may act as badly as you can think of here?" Is it because we, in our attempts to give the public beauty and recreations they can't find in their living quarters, have somehow given the impression that we are also providing beautiful targets for working off frustrations?
No one has answers to these questions and it is costing all municipal governments a lot of money and new laws to deal with them. How sad.