The other day, Emma and I were on the bus minding our own business and counting red cars, when a teenager started talking to an elderly lady in front of us.
Before I go on, a little disclaimer: I’m used to not talking on the bus. Well, I am an ex-Londoner after all. Hour long journeys on the tube consisted on looking down as far to the floor as possible, without looking like you are staring intently at a stranger’s crotch. Preferably I’d also have headphones on, so as to block out the entire world and send out the message (if it wasn’t clear already) that I am not in the market for a chat.
I watched as a teenage girl chatted to an 80-year old lady about what she was wearing. The cynical part of me though that it was a joke at first, and I could tell the lady felt the same way. But she continued to say how much she loved what she was wearing and that she was studying fashion at college. She sat and listened to the lady and asked her about her life and what she used to do when she was younger. It was the loveliest thing I had seen in a long time.
But why was this so surprising to me? Why was it so unusual that a young person would be interested to talk to someone two generations older than them? I suppose my only encounter of young people in Brighton hasn’t been quite so positive. Teenagers messing around at the park, trying to intimidate while I play with Emma. Or secondary school students who sometimes tap on your window because they think they are being funny in front of their mates. These kind of experiences just make you wary of any teenagers and to be honest, I usually try to stay well clear when I’m out and about with Emma.
However, that day this teenage girl restored my faith in young people. She made me see that I have certain prejudices against teenagers without meaning to. I sit away from them on the bus, or make sure I get out of the way in the road. I always expect the worst and that’s wrong of me, because they’re not all the same. Just as adults, you have some people who cause trouble but others who would bend over backwards to help you. It’s no different just because they are younger than I am.
As I stopped to think about what I had just seen and how that made me feel, it made me think of James and Emma too. You teach them to be polite, kind and considerate – but equally to stick up for themselves if that’s what the situation needs. It would absolutely make my day if someone had told me that was my child and this girl was everything I want our children to be. Perhaps it’s just a defence mechanism we all have as parents to protect our family but I’m glad I bumped into this girl and the elderly lady, as they both made me see the world from a slightly different angle.