My neighborhood is gloriously awash in children; their peals and cries echoing from the playground, from the tennis courts, from the makeshift sledding hills, from the cul-de-sacs in which they build jumps for their bikes. I have watched many of these kids grow from little nuggets into impossibly rangy adolescents into holders of driver’s licenses, as has the whole community. We are astounded by their growth, just as they are delightfully shy about the attention paid to what they accurately perceive as a biological inevitability. As an increasingly aging parent, I rejoice in the sight of new families taking their first tentative forays outside, tiny bodies ensconced in Baby Bjorns or strollers. It is the continuation of a beautiful circle and of the neighborly spirit.
The year-long mandate for isolation has made interactions fewer and more fraught; conversations are had more in passing than in depth. But even in the throes of true quarantine, the activity of the children kept the neighborhood from seeming desolate. Although the sentiment may be contradicted by a few, unavoidable misers, I daresay that the energy imbued by the sheer presence of these kids has been a tremendous boon to the collective.
These children are not perfect; they have spats and temper tantrums and bad days. They are humans, miniature in stature but not in composition. But I have spent enough time with Violet and her cadre to know the sweetness that is their essence. Their rambunctious natures are counterbalanced by a shocking politeness. Just as the older kids once looked after Violet, now it is her and her posse that are taking care of the younger ones, only occasionally being comically bossy with their instruction.
Each generation of children is maligned by the adults that have to oversee them, that lament the bygone days of their own youth, now too clouded by time to be anything other than a rosy reminiscence. There is much handwringing over screen time and bullying and tawdry fashion, concerns legitimate to a point, but also concerns voiced without any self-awareness or remembrance of the travails of being a kid. It is easy to view a child’s life through the lens of an adult, as presumably each adult was once a kid. It is impossible for our children to understand context without having the ability to experience it.
Not since my grandparents’ generation was faced with the threats and deprivations of the Second World War has an entire swath of children had to stand so firm, had to be so scared. Although they are conscious of the limitations placed on them, they are oblivious of the strength that they are gaining in surviving this epoch. Just as parents have had to adapt to the difficulties of childrearing during a pandemic, our kids have had to adjust to being locked in the house with their folks. My child knows the intricate details of my personal and professional lives in a way that I never experienced with my own parents, with whom I was and am remarkably close.
Although it is possible for kids to now safely gather under certain circumstances, they are still largely separated from their friends. Violet has one close friend in her school cohort, but has to speak with the rest of her pals through fences or across fields. The prison analogies make themselves, but like tiny little lifers, they are making do with what they have. It is an inspiration and a blessing and I am so incredibly proud of these kids. Whenever we progress to normalcy, they will be so prepared for adversity that I am thrilled to see their impact. A new greatest generation is in the making.