This school year has a few benefits which I’m thoroughly enjoying. These show up somewhere in the middle section of two and one half hours of class when the students and I don our coats — and sometimes umbrellas — to go for a walk break in the fresh air. We usually communally stride around the block passing the neighbouring elementary school where many were once students, heads watching the pavement in conversation. We witness dog walkers and strollers, leaf rakers and cyclists, but it’s actually the conversations, the unfettered youthful exchange, which delights me on these walks. And then there is the pause to breathe. Beneficial breath.
I overhear them on one sunny but crisp walk as they move in pairs or small groups, sometimes in front and sometimes behind me. I intentionally move fast enough to give them space to be on their own, but I still overhear their excited exchange.
“What do you mean?! (Pause) I’m mature!”
Laughter ensues and then some inaudible reply.
“What?! I’m mature. That just means I’m lazy, but it doesn’t mean I’m not mature.”
This time with inflection and insistence, “I’m mature!”
More laughter and exchanges float my way as I process this perspective, a young teen who holds the middle space between two brothers. He’d written a memoir about the fighting and the love which did reveal a mature understanding of these complicated and fraught familial bonds.
Then I wonder how the dialogue emerged, how others view maturity, and what marks this label. This conversation leads me further back to my own story, the one with parents of post-war Britain with what might be the outright denial of anything emotional. History had shown me that when emotions did emerge, there was war. They exploded and destroyed. Instead, maturity was conceptualized as control.
And, here I am, reflecting on maturity prompted by the transient words of teens in conversation, a small moment prodding me to wonder how this might be an important class discussion – beneficial breath and inspiration for conversation.