Monday, September 27, 2010

Superwoman VS Stereotyping: Teenage Boys

Our Stake had a dinner prior to the recent Relief Society General Meeting. I had planned for my husband to stay home with our children but due to unforeseen circumstances, I had to bring them along. The local leaders had arranged for a few men and some teenage boys to help with the child care. They cheerful took my 7 children into the designated room and I left to enjoy a quiet dinner and some rare adult conversation.

I had taken about 3 bites when our ward Relief Society President came and said my 4 year old son had had a little bathroom accident and needed me. I just happened to have a change of clothes for him in the car. I retrieved them and went to get him cleaned and changed.

It was not a simple wetting accident, to put it delicately. But I was pleasantly stunned to find that 2 of the young men were already cleaning the bathroom when I arrived. Apparently, my son had tried to clean himself up and they found him half-naked in the bathroom. One of the young men was mopping and had already cleaned my son's shoes. Another came in with a new garbage bag to replace the one containing...smelly paper towels. They set to work with spray bottles of disinfectant and paper towels, wiping down the dirty surfaces.

I took my son to the ladies' room for a private and more thorough cleaning. When we passed the men's room a few minutes later, they were still cleaning. I didn't hear any joking or laughing, no complaining or comments about how gross it was or the smell.

Now, I am sure this mess was not unlike the kind I have cleaned at home on occasion. It seemed to be fairly localized and was almost cleaned up when I saw it. What impressed me was the maturity of the young men who were dealing with it. Granted, they are both what you might call "sober" youth; quiet, responsible, good-natured. So this episode was not out of character for them. But I couldn't help thinking how their peers might have handled it. No doubt many would have left the whole thing for me to deal with. Others would have cleaned up only if asked, compensated, or threatened. Few teenagers would have done this kind of job without complaining.

I couldn't help thinking about this difference. I have thought often in recent weeks about the ever-widening divide between the righteous and the wicked. There is no doubt in my mind that the righteous of the earth stand out and will stand out more and more in coming years. The decency and morality are as foreign today as pornography and recreational drugs were 200 years ago. The world seems to have turned upside down. (No, I wasn't alive 200 years ago to actually know this from experience!)

I am so grateful for good kids like the teenagers I have described. I am grateful for their wonderful example to my kids. A few weeks ago, our family was talking about the Stripling Warriors and what those young men must have been like. I said that they had great faith and were obedient. My 9 year old daughter mentioned one of the young men from the bathroom incident. "I bet they were like him. He has a lot of faith." I was almost in tears. Not just because she had noticed him but because there was someone like that for my kids to notice.

There are lots of other amazing examples of good teenagers. That isn't a general statement. There is the 13 year old who is our hometeacher. He cheerfully helped us put in our garden, getting covered in mud and clay. And his sister who has been a wonderful babysitter for us. More than one young woman from our ward has moved to sit with restless children when their mother takes a crying baby out of Sacrement meeting. (We live in a military ward, you know, so the fathers are often deployed or otherwise occupied with their jobs on Sunday).

I can't forget the examples in our own family. My kids have cousins on missions and uncles who have recently returned. My neice went with us to the temple this summer and spent the whole time taking care of our then 5 1/2 month old baby. Our older neices and nephews seemed eager to entertain their younger cousins while we grown-ups spent time together.

Each of these moments of small quiet service have provided me with one great big giant reaction. HOPE! Hope for the future. Hope that the world is not entirely going down the toilet. Hope that the next generation really is better, stronger, more capable, more willing and able to prepare the world for the Second Coming of our Lord. Yes, there will be wickedness and destruction and many terrible things in the future. But the Lord is truly doing "a marvelous work and a wonder" in these Last Days.

Now, when I see some ego-sentric, amoral, bratzilla of a teenager on TV, I can tell my kids with complete confidence that they do not, under any circumstance, have permisison to be like that when they get older. Teenagers don't HAVE to be obnoxious, rude, rebellious, defiant, ignorant, tough, cynical, angry, sexy, or threatening. And I have proof!

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